Developers urged to help otters
Developers have been urged to play their part in helping secure the future of the otter population.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has launched a new guide promoting the protection of otters through sensitive development.
The last century saw a rapid decline in otter populations across Europe due to culling, pollution, habitat loss and hunting, but the animals are now a European protected species.
The legal protections in Northern Ireland have helped see a rise in otter numbers and now the guide, Otters And Development, is aimed at preventing any disruption to the animals' lives.
NIEA scientific officer Lisa Maddox said: "Thankfully, otters are no longer persecuted and recent survey information encouragingly shows a recovery in the population in Northern Ireland. However, they are still threatened by human disturbance, recreation, pollution and habitat loss as a consequence of development."
She said it is essential that otters and their habitat are considered in proposals for development.
"The booklet provides basic advice for developers, planning officers and others who may come across otter issues related to planning," she added.
"It also provides an overview of the potential implications of development and the current protective legislation and a framework for ensuring that adequate measures are put in place to protect otters from the possible consequences of development."
The otter is a semi-aquatic mammal, and while rarely seen, it is found in a large number of areas across Northern Ireland. The 2010 Northern Ireland otter survey showed numbers have improved in recent years, with the greatest increase in coastal areas.
The booklet is the third in the series which also includes Badgers And Development and Bats And Development.