Slapton Sands is a nature reserve with a fresh water lake situated right on the coast of south Devon. The lake (called Slapton Ley) is a haven for many animals with a very complicated ecosystem. The lake and sea are split by a small embankment and beach called Slapton Sands. There is a road along this embankment that leads from Slapton to Dartmouth; this is the same road that comes from Kingsbridge. There are two car parks at either side of the lake about 1.5 miles apart. Gentle walks exist around the lake and can be extended into the surrounding countryside.
Otters are one of the many animals that live in this habitat. The European Otter is found across Europe and Asia but their population is increasingly diminishing due to loss of habitat, human water pollution, sport, hunting and fisheries. The otter’s natural habitat exists on embankments of rivers and lakes across the country.
Along the coast otters mainly hunt in daylight but further in land otters hunt at twilight or in darkness for protection. They hunt mainly fish but other aquatic and amphibious animals do make up the otters' diet. Their body is perfectly adapted for hunting in water. They have stiff whiskers to feel the currents of their prey, with a strong waterproof fur coat and webbed feet they can hunt successfully under water.
The European Otter burrows in bank sides with their territory stretching from 4-20km long. This territory is kept by scent marking and droppings. These act as message points that other otters can smell/sense, they also act as barriers. These otters are mainly solitary but pair up for mating for 2-3 months in early spring. Gestation lasts for 60-70 days with a litter size of 2-3 cubs. These cubs will suckle for 3 months and then stay with their mother for more than a year after suckling. This will be the best time to spot these otters.
Otters belong to the Mustelids family along with weasels, minks, polecats, badgers and skunks. Mustelids are one of the biggest families with the most diverse species, with 62 species within the group, but they all have two similarities; they all have short legs and an elongated body.
Being just 12 miles from The Cottage Hotel this is a lovely morning or afternoon walk with plenty of wildlife to see. Just make sure you take a coat because it can be chilly being so close to the coast.