EXTRA fencing has been erected at the banks of the River Stour in a bid to protect the wild otters that are nesting there.

Officers from Dorset Police's rural crime team were joined by Dorset Council rangers and staff from the UK Wild Otter Trust (UKWOT) to put up the fencing and signage at the site near Blandford.

Some fencing was already in place, following reports of photographers putting large lenses down the natal holts of some of the nesting otters.

These holts are the riverside dwellings where female otters give birth and raise cubs for the first three months.

Police have attended a number of otter disturbances involving members of the public and wildlife photographers in recent weeks.

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PC Claire Dinsdale, deputy lead for wildlife crime at Dorset Police, said: "These included alleged reports of people entering fenced off areas and in some cases entering the water itself to get closer to otters.

"If anyone does witness any disturbance we would urge the public to report this to Dorset Police."

Otters are a protected species and disturbing them is an offence.

Now further fencing has been put up along the River Stour to prohibit access to a wider area of the riverbank.

However, onlookers are still able to observe the otters even though physical access to the site has been curtailed.

Dave Webb, founder of UKWOT said “ We had to fence off an area previously due to people putting large lenses down the natal holt.

"That fencing has been respected and has stopped this particular issue but it is now necessary to extend this fence line in order to give the otters there further protection from possible disturbance.

"Further fencing will not prevent anyone from taking photographs or enjoying the wildlife at the site but it will remove the risk of disturbance at a sensitive site but still allow people to enjoy them and take responsible images.

"It is not about stopping people from photographing these animals but they are highly vulnerable and they are a protected species under law.

"We all have a duty to ensure that they are not disturbed in any way and are working with the rural crime team of Dorset Police who support this important work."