Call for speed limits as two otters die

A sign could warn motorists to slow at Blackford Pond. Picture: STEVEN SCOTT TAYLOR
A sign could warn motorists to slow at Blackford Pond. Picture: STEVEN SCOTT TAYLOR
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THERE are calls for warning signs and lower speed limits near a city nature reserve after a pair of otters were mown down by a passing car.

Hugh Thomas, 52, of Cluny Gardens, woke to the grisly sight of a mother and cub dead on the road outside his home near Blackford Pond on Monday morning.

The dad-of-one has told how this is the second time otters have been run over in as many years. A third incident involving a dead otter has also been reported on nearby Braid Hills Drive which skirts the Hermitage of Braid Local Nature Reserve.

Mr Thomas said: “It’s sad to see. They come out through the fence beside the pond but there’s no signs to warn motorists that otters are in the area or that they’re passing a nature reserve.

“There is an issue of speeding on the road anyway, the design of the road doesn’t encourage drivers to slow down. The council could easily implement a 20mph limit.”

This view is echoed by Scottish Natural Heritage and local conservation group Friends of Hermitage of Braid & Blackford Hill Local Nature Reserve.

Niall Corbet, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Forth operations manager, said: “The otter population in Scotland is doing well and otters are now found in most of the country’s rivers, including those in Edinburgh such as the Water of Leith, the canal and the Braid Burn. Road kills are the main cause of death other than natural causes.”

He added: “If otters are regularly being killed on roads near Blackford Pond over the long-term, it might be worth the council considering options like speed reductions and warning signs.”

Scotland is a European stronghold for the otter. In 2003, the total Scottish population was estimated at around 8,000.

Jo Doakes, convenor of the Friends of Hermitage Braid, said: “We are all gutted about this. It is so rare to see an otter in the wild and to see them dead on the road is very upsetting. Signs might be the answer or perhaps just telling people to slow down.”

Although otters were forced out of Edinburgh almost 30 years ago by a combination of pollution, waste dumping and development along the river banks, their reappearance in recent years is seen as a good indication that the city’s river ecology is in good shape.

Mr Thomas has since buried the otters in his back garden.

He has also told how otters are not the only species from the nature reserve to suffer under the wheels of passing vehicles.

He added: “Each year there is a frog migration across the road and they get pretty much decimated by the passing cars.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment convener, said: “As a council we are very conscious of protecting our wildlife and this is particularly important in and around our natural heritage sites across the city. We’d be keen to work with friends groups and members of the local community to look at putting in place measures to ensure Edinburgh’s otter population is protected.”

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com