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Lizzie Ross


General secretary

(IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group






The inland otter remains an elusive creature living a crepuscular life cycle best seen by accident rather than a planned vigil. My passion is otters in Northumberland.

I regularly survey for otters in my local patch and work alongside Vivien, the Environment Agency, the Cardiff Otter Project and our volunteers to collect otter road kills which are postmortemed in Cardiff to add knowledge to decades of collected data.

I have undertaken research alongside Newcastle University students to investigate otter road mortality and completed the first  non-invasive otter DNA study along the Tyne catchment in 2014 with Krzysztof Dabrowski and a team at The Waterford Insitute of Techology, Ireland comprising Pete Turner, Catherine O'Reilly and David O'Niel.


The Team consists of two key members:


Vivien Kent


Event co-ordinator

(IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group





I am an independent Wildlife/Conservation Biologist and have been working with and studying carnivores in the UK and sub-Saharan Africa for more than 20 years.


Until 2017 I was Conservation Officer at Durham Wildlife Trust where I devised, planned, delivered and analysed the data for the DWT Spring Otter Survey for five years from 2013. Since 2018 the survey has become an Otter Network event. I am now a Durham Wildlife Trust Trustee.

I am also actively involved in educating and informing people about otters through walks, talks and writing articles.

The following team members support us when they can:


Deb Nicholson (former Treasurer & Otter Enthusiast)

My background was Nursing but I now work in the voluntary sector. My obsession with otters began approximately 10 years ago when I moved back down the Dale to lower Teesdale where I live now. I have always enjoyed wildlife however. I became involved with the Heart of Teesdale and DWT annual survey through Viv Kent (see above), who has been my inspiration! I have regularly watched otters over this period of time and every sighting has always been very special.


I have had upsetting times (as they are still persecuted), frustrating times & amazing moments! I have spent many happy hours roving the river banks & would like to think am competent in otter recognition and signs. There's nothing better than smelling a good spraint! : )


I also do a very good interpretation of how not to take good photos and the one that got away!!

Terry Coult (Retired County Ecologist)


I have always had an interest in otters and have checked Durham’s rivers for the last forty years as well as monitoring otter recolonisation of Durham from the 1990s to present.


My MSc thesis was on otters in County Durham and my former roles include the Otters and Rivers Project Officer for Durham Wildlife Trust 1999/2000. 


Publications include “Some Observations on an Otter Breeding Site on the River Browney”, Northumbrian Naturalist Vol. 70. Part 2. 2010.  I am the co author of the chapter on the Otter in the “Mammals Amphibians and Reptiles of the North East”, Northumbrian Naturalist, Vol. 73. 2012.  

John Durkin  (Independent ecologist and former DWT trustee)

I am a self-employed ecologist working mostly in North-east England. I saw my first Otter at Thirlmere in the Lake District, when they were declining, and my second 20 years later on the beautiful River Derwent when they were first starting to recover.

My main interest with Otters is to monitor their continuing recovery, keep the recovery going and to consolidate their increase in range and numbers by improving riverside habitats , holts and road crossings, particularly in the urban areas.


Our Vision

To encourage, inform and co-ordinate volunteers from Northumberland, County Durham and Darlington to participate and be active in local conservation and research of the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra), as guided by experienced board members, whilst creating a central contact for existing otter enthusiasts. The group maintains wider connections to national and international forums to aid otter conservation, education, and research. 

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