When you hear CCTV, it usually brings to mind town centers and criminals. A secluded woodland would be the last place you’d imagine, but deep in Devon, there’s a river under 24hour surveillance, in the search for a very special lady. A lady that goes by the name of Hammer Scar, due to a distinctive scar on her nose. A lady that is, in fact, a fearless female otter.
Since 2013, Stephen Powles has been monitoring the otters along his local river, and found the easiest means of identifying them to be marks on their noses, and notches out of their ears. After several months he realised one female had been frequenting his stretch of the river and was becoming bold, allowing him to film her in person, this was Hammer. Over the next four years, Stephen and a neighbour set up CCTV and sensors along the river to alert them to otter activity. During this time, Hammer had several litters of pups and had enough trust in Stephen, introduce them several years in a row!
Overall, otter populations in the southwest have increased dramatically since the 1970s despite increasingly busy roads, the main cause of otter fatalities. The largest UK populations are found in Devon and Cornwall, and public records, dead or alive, are vital to population monitoring. If you find a dead otter, please report it to a local wildlife service so cause of death can be determined, and mitigation can be put in place when needed.
Finally, we would like to thank Vic Simpson for his otter post-mortem work that significantly raised awareness of otters in the south west, Mary Groves for her excellent catering, James Burke for his otter update on behalf of the Environment Agency, our guest speaker Stephen Powles, everyone that contributed to our raffle, and our own Kate Hills for organising such a brilliant event!