Otters seen in every English county
Otters have returned to every county in England in a turnaround of their fortunes which once saw them on the brink of extinction.
A survey of rivers across England last year by the Environment Agency revealed that the elusive mammal was found in every county except Kent.
However wildlife experts at the agency have now confirmed there are at least two otters in Kent, which have built holts on the Medway and Eden rivers, completing their return to their former England-wide range.
Otters saw numbers tumble in the face of toxic pesticides which damaged their health and reduced their supplies of fish, to the point they had almost disappeared from England by the 1970s.
A ban on the chemical pesticides and improvements in water quality in rivers across England, along with legal protection, has helped them onto the road to recovery.
Last year's fifth otter survey of England, which examined 3,327 river sites across the country between July 2009 and March 2010, showed the number of places with evidence of otter life had increased tenfold in 30 years.
However, recovery was not uniform and was slowest in the South East, with conservationists predicting otters may not be resident in Kent for another 10 years. So the sightings in the county have been hailed as a "symbol of great success" for the efforts to conserve the mammals.
The Environment Agency said otters continued to recover in other parts of the UK, with a recent survey on the Ribble in Lancashire showing a 44% increase in the number of otters since 2008.
The agency's national conservation manager, Alastair Driver, said: "The recovery of otters from near-extinction shows how far we've come in controlling pollution and improving water quality. Rivers in England are the healthiest for over 20 years, and otters, salmon and other wildlife are returning to many rivers for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.
"The fact that otters are now returning to Kent is the final piece in the jigsaw for otter recovery in England and is a symbol of great success for everybody involved in otter conservation."