Otter Country: An Unexpected Adventure in the Natural World

Tin House. Feb. 2024. 304p. ISBN 9781959030348. $27.95. SCI
As a child, Darlington (The Wise Hours: A Journey into the Wild and Secret World of Owls) begged her parents to take her to Scotland to see river otters. In this wildlife narrative, she describes the influential novels, poems, and films that inspired a lifetime of otter observations. By car, train, bike and on foot, she spent a year looking for otters living in the wild in Scotland, Wales, the Lake District, and Cornwall. She examines what they eat, the marks and droppings they leave behind, and even their post-death bodies to learn all she can about their behavior and environment. Consistently watching and listening, she spends days and nights in fields, under bridges and floating in streams. Her recounting of animal adaptations, changing environments, and a shift in public attitude are specific to this animal, but it also gives an overall picture of a changing ecology.
VERDICT Darlington’s expressive descriptions animate this highly recommended book that looks back at how nature stories encouraged a child’s wonder of river otters. It also looks at how otter populations are recovering in the UK.
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