Cornwall Coastal Otter Project update November 2018
The CCOP is making some serious progress – we now have over 20 volunteers out looking for otter spraint around the coast from Bude to Saltash. Most of our current volunteers have experience with otter surveys but we are also organising two surveyors training days in January/February. One to be held at The Lost Gardens of Heligan and another further west. These are aimed at introducing novice surveyors to spraint collection and analysis. I am hoping that Ian McCarthy will also be able to attend and share some of his ongoing otter work on the Fowey. Rebecca Smith at Newquay College has been working on the analysis of samples and we are beginning to realise what a serious task we have taken on!
Once the samples have been cleaned up we are left with a selection of generally tiny bones and pieces of otter lunch which then have to be compared with images of known fish, amphibian, mammal, bird or invertebrate bits and pieces. There are keys and guides for some of these but we are trying to come up with a list of likely species and then possibly having to prepare samples for comparison – a major project in itself. Fortunately, we have made some useful connections with Prof. Naomi Sykes at the Department of Archaeology of Exeter University. Naomi spends a lot of her time trying to identify bone scraps from archaeological sites so we are pooling resources and aiming to organise a fish bone identification workshop in February. Let me know if you would like to be involved with this.
Volunteers are heading out to check out the potential spraint sites and we are beginning to get reports and samples returned. I hear Teagen has already collected half–a-dozen samples from the North Coast.
If you have had an opportunity to visit any of the project sites (or any other suitable sites) and have any comments – was there any evidence of otter (with or without spraint), what was access like, any safety issues? Please let me know. Also, let me know if you need replacement kit or have any comments or suggestions for the collection or anything else about the Project.
Email: Cornwallmammals @btinternet.com