From the veteran nature writer (The Badgers of Summercombe, etc.): a tale of otters, streams and fields, and a passel of pale but agreeable people in somewhat still-pristine northwest England. While the female otter Shelta is cavorting nearby and doing otter things, middle-aged widower and retired vet Scarr, living quietly on his Mossrig Farm, has a dilemma. Dawn, a young girl who has been thrown from her motor bike and nursed back to health by Scarr, refuses to give her full name and begs to stay with him in the isolation of Mossrig. Also in residence: a male otter, name of ""Wabun,"" who's been injured in the hindquarters. Scarr, still wondering what to do about Dawn, invites young vet Brian Beck in to consult on otter care. Brian is attracted to Dawn, who withdraws. Also, as Dawn and Wabun gain strength, Scarf is drawn to the wispy lass; there are chatty get-togethers by streams and at table with pub owner Cubby. (Scarf holds forth on a host of environmental concerns: the proper care of soil, hunting manners, the economic and environmental advantages of compost over artificial fertilizers, and the unethical practice of hunting domesticated creatures.) And eventually Dawn lessens her resistance to Brian, as the men discover her dreadful secret past. But then an otter tragedy--brought on when the owner of a trout hatchery sees Shelta tossing trout--pushes poor Dawn to the edge of sanity. . . before she awakens to new life and love. (To round off the happy ending, Shelta waddles forth later with half-grown cubs, one of whom, Wabun's offspring, will bring an end to the glorious life of a giant salmon.) Clarkson's natural observation is again refreshing and happy-hearted, although, through Scarf, he does go on--sometimes rousingly, sometimes in purple-coated clichÃ‰s: ""We bask in the afterglow of a sunset knowing all the time we shall never see another dawn.