By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans

A FAMILY of boisterous otters play together - including a half blind mother and her pups

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Otters nearly became extinct in the 1950s and 1960s after pollution and hunting depleted their numbers

The romp live at Lake Windermere in the Lake District and photographer Ashley Cooper has been visiting them to check up on the mother of the family for eight years.

Hunting otters was made illegal in Britain in 1978 - which helped the otter population bounce back

After facing extinction at the hands of hunting and pollution, the otter population has bounced back and the slippery den dwellers have slowly been returning to England’s rivers and lakes over the past few years.

Otters do not reproduce frequently and some mothers will only have two sets of pups in their lifetime

For Ashley tracking the otters has become a favourite pastime, especially as the Windermere family are rarely bothered by their human audience.

The slippery creatures still face risks from fishing nets and the pollution of their habitat

Cooper said: “They’re increasing as species, because they were virtually wiped out in England by pollution and by hunting. So it’s lovely to see them coming back.

“Ordinarily they’re very shy creatures but because they’re on a lake they’re used to people being around all the time.

Male otters are called dogs or boars while females are called bitches

“They’re not as shy as some otters would be.”

Over the years Ashley has spotted one particular otter many times - a mother who is blind in one eye.

He has kept a close eye on her thanks to her distinctive pale eye and the pups she is usually accompanied by.

Otters can hold their breath for up to four minutes underwater

The fish-mad animals always put on a good show and recently the photographer had another special sighting when he saw a particularly adventurous otter go exploring on an anchored boat.

He said: “I’ve never seen otters climbing around on boats before. He literally climbed right under the cabin under the awning of the boat and went for a lie down. Very unusual behaviour!”

Following a depleted population in the 1950s and 1960s, otter hunting was officially banned in Britain in 1978.

Despite a bloody history with humans, these particular otters merely treated their spectators with mild curiosity.

Photographer Ashley Cooper has tracked this group of otters for 8 years
Most otters are wary of humans but this set were unphased by their human audience

Ashley said: “They certainly know you’re there. When I photographed them from 5 or 6 feet away they just sit their looking at you or sniffing at you.

“They’re obviously getting your scent and checking you out. They’re very aware that you’re there.

“But equally they don’t seem too concerned about it. Over time I guess they must recognise you and realise that you’re not a threat.”