Coastal Otter Project
Cornwall Mammal group are searching for volunteers who would be willing to visit otter sites around Cornwall in order to collect spraint samples for this exciting new project
Can you volunteer to survey any areas near the coast?
Do you have experience of spraint analysis, fish scale identification, or similar microscope skills?
out more about
After a gestation of several years we are about to launch our Coastal Otter Project. This will be a collaborative project with other Mammal and Otter Groups in the South West. The aim is to try and understand more about how otters in Cornwall use coastal habitats.
Otters in Cornwall are widely recorded on the rivers, streams and ponds. Sightings and records from the coast are less common. The coastal environment is a rich resource for otters and they certainly use it on occasion but we have little information about how important it is for them.
Helpfully, otters can provide evidence of their diet in their prominently deposited spraints and it is possible to determine what an animal has been eating through analysis of scales and bones contained in the spraint.
We know food passes through the otter’s digestive tract relatively quickly and we have plenty of information on the distance otters can travel. Therefore the Project will try to collect spraints from at or near the coast and then compare the relative abundance of freshwater and marine prey items in the spraints.
This will help us understand the importance of coastal foraging for Cornwall’s otters and we hope will inform
conservation and planning decisions in the future. We also are keen to improve recording of otters – something that has tailed off over recent years.
The Project will begin with the collection of spraint from streams, rivers, estuaries and coastlines within 1km of the high water mark. We intend to run several otter-spotter events for people not familiar with the delight of spraint identification and collection. Samples will be collected and stored at a central laboratory and analysed using scale and bone identification keys.
If the initial collection and analysis is successful we intend to roll out the methodology to cover as much of our coastline as possible and also to extend the Project into neighbouring counties.