Workshop reveals more about
the otter’s diet!
Mammal conservation through innovation and
A group of volunteers rolled up their sleeves to find out more
about what otters eat in North Wales - at a special workshop last
Otter, photo ©CCW
In the workshop, organised by the Mammals in a Sustainable
Environment (MISE) project at Treborth Botanic Gardens, over 40
volunteers dissected otter droppings, know as spraints, to see what
they could find. The remains of eels, marine and freshwater fish,
crabs, amphibians and even birds and mice were all among their gory
findings - more than 23 different prey species in total.
The spraints were collected by volunteers last year, along the
North Wales coast and in Waterford, Ireland. Mammal Ecologist Rob
Strachan helped the volunteers identify fish bones, jaws and even
mammal teeth as they picked the spraints apart!
The MISE project is part of an EU Interreg funded project
involving the Countryside Council for Wales and The Vincent
Wildlife Trust to find out more about mammals and what they need to
thrive in a sustainable environment.
Ceri Morris, CCW Project Officer and workshop organiser said:
“Analysing the otter’s diet can yield valuable information not only
about what they eat, but where they feed and how far they roam. We
found evidence of crabs in a number of the spraints, which are
generally thought of as a favourite food for young otters – so this
could be evidence of breeding sites near our coasts.”
“We can also find out the DNA of individual animals from the
spraints – which will help us learn more about how many otters
there are, and will give us a better insight into their lives in
One volunteer, Rob Jones, who travelled from the Conwy area to
take part said: “I hadn’t realised there were otters near where I
live. We analysed spraint found in the river that passes by the end
of my garden! Now that I know they’re there, and what to look for,
I’ll be keeping an eye out for them in the future!”
Ceri Morris added: “It is great to see so many people
enthusiastic to learn more about otters, despite having to pick
through their droppings to do so! A few people told me that they
have travelled as far as the Highlands of Scotland to see Otters in
the past, and yet they are living here on our doorstep in North
Otters – at a glance:
- Otters were once widespread in Britain, but suffered a dramatic
decline in the 1950s – 1970s due to pollution from pesticides.
- Since the pesticides were withdrawn from use, Welsh rivers are
the healthiest they’ve been for 20 years and otters have spread
across much of Wales.
- Most of the otter’s diet is fish (usually 75-95%) but they also
eat amphibians, crayfish, waterfowl and small mammals.
- Otters live along rivers, lakes and sea coasts, and, at times,
in marshy areas some distance from open water. Coast-living otters
need fresh water to clean salt from their fur, which otherwise
loses its ability to keep them warm.
- Otters can travel over large areas, some are known to roam 20km
or more along rivers.
- Otters are territorial - they deposit faeces, known as
spraints, in prominent places to mark their territory.
For more information, visit the project’s website
www.miseproject.ie or find us on Facebook under ‘Mammals in a
Sustainable Environment (MISE)’. If you would like to get involved
in a volunteer event contact Ceri Morris firstname.lastname@example.org Tel:
07881850735 or Jenny MacPherson : email@example.com Tel:
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information about this press release please contact
Helen Evans, CCW Press Office on 07717225589 or Bran Devey, CCW, on
02920 772 403/ 07747767443, or Hilary Macmillan at VWT on 01531
More detail: The otter spraints were collected
from a number of sites along the North Wales coast, from
Queensferry in Flintshire, Rhyl, Llanddulas,Conwy, all around
Anglesey and along the Llyn Peninsula during surveys organised by
Snowdonia Mammal Group, Menter Môn , and Flintshire, Denbighshire
and Conwy County Councils.
At the launch of the Mammals in a Sustainable Environment
Project, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and
European Programmes, Alun Davies AM, said: “Supporting biodiversity
is a key part of our commitment as a Government to sustainable
development. I am pleased that this EU backed initiative will
ensure that local partners and communities are able to make a real
difference, helping to promote the wildlife and habitats threatened
by human activity and climate change."
- Mammals in a Sustainable Environment (MISE) is delivered in
partnership with the Countryside Council for Wales, The Vincent
Wildlife Trust and Snowdonia National Park Authority, in Wales, and
the Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford County Council and
the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Ireland.
- The project aims to monitor mammal species of conservation
interest, with the help of novel genetic techniques, and will work
with volunteers to raise awareness, and engage the public in mammal
survey and conservation work.
- The project is part funded by £800,000 from the European
Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales
Programme (INTERREG 4A)”.
- The Ireland Wales Cross Border programme is led by the Southern
and Eastern Regional Assembly (SERA) in Ireland in partnership with
the Welsh Government.
- The project is supported by the European Regional Development
Fund to develop collaborative projects to boost skills, economic
growth and protect the environment.
- The project follows the publication of the Welsh Government’s
framework for caring for Wales’ natural environment, ‘A Living
Wales’, launched last year. The framework has been established to
halt the decline of biodiversity by managing the Welsh environment
in a more holistic and joined-up way.
CCW is a Welsh Government Sponsored Body, working for a better
Wales where everyone values and cares for our natural environment.
More information about our work is available on www.ccw.gov.uk
The Vincent Wildlife Trust is a national charity engaged in
mammal research and conservation. For more than 30 years, the Trust
has made major contributions to the conservation of many of our
rarer mammals, including the otter, dormouse, water vole, pine
marten, polecat and the bats. Today, the Trust continues to
concentrate on the needs of British and Irish mammals of
conservation interest, with current work centred on the bats, pine
marten and stoat. The Trust also manages over 40 nature reserves in
England, Wales and Ireland, most of which are bat roosts. In Wales,
the Trust has staff based in Brecon, Presteigne and Brechfa. More
information about our work is on www.vwt.org.uk.