WORK by the The East Yar Project Group and Down to the Coast Project has allowed the return to the Isle of Wight of of one of the UK’s most iconic animals, the otter.

The East Yar Project Group, a collective of ten farmers and landowners in the valley of the Eastern Yar, has been working to restore the river between Budbridge above Newchurch, and Longwood Lane, Sandown in partnership with the Down to the Coast Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Both programmes of work are coordinated by the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Removal of shading trees and construction of fish passes along the river has improved conditions for river wildlife including the rare water vole, dragonflies and water plants.

In 2015 the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Down to the Coast commissioned a survey of the river for water voles. No signs of otter were found.

A repeat of the survey this summer has revealed not only water vole, eels and harvest mouse — all nationally important species — but positive signs of otters in the river, with surveys showing otters are active along the river upstream of Horringford.

Andy Rothwell, who carried out the survey, said: "It has been a delight to discover an otter has explored much further inland than we have found before and reached the Eastern Yar.

"I have surveyed the river several times in the last seventeen years and always thought it should easily be able to support otters, but found no evidence of such activity until now.

"With continued support and work on both sides of the Solent, the Island could easily become a mainstay for this enchanting riparian mammal."

David Brown, chair of the East Yar Project Group, said: "We are pleased the work we have done on the river has brought this much-loved mammal back to the Island. We wait to see if a population becomes established or whether these sightings are just a very adventurous individual."