The Coastal Otters Project has, until now, focused predominantly on recording the activities of otter populations on the coastlines of South and West Wales and Scotland and the Shetland Isles. There are, however, rarely seen populations of coastal otters inhabiting the coastline of Devon and Cornwall that they are keen to learn more about.
A small (mostly freshwater dwelling) mammal, otters have for years captured the imaginations of the British public whether from reading Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter or from time spent trying to catch a glimpse of this rare and now so-elusive of native mammals beside the banks of a river or lake. Otters suffered a widespread decline in population in the 1950s and 60s across Britain, but are slowly and steadily re-establishing their numbers. Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) do venture beyond their traditional stomping grounds of inland lakes and rivers, and much like their Pacific North West cousins the sea otter they are comfortable in marine habitats.
It has been found that around the coast of the UK otters can live and forage for food happily as long as they have access to a source of freshwater to wash the salt from their thick coat of fur. Therefore wherever rivers and estuaries empty into the ocean, in particular on relatively unspoilt stretches of coastline, it is possible that otters may be present.
A friend of ours who runs a sealife safari operation further up the Cornish coast spotted one of the small furry creatures earlier this year on the far side of a headland several miles from the mouth of an estuary and many more miles from it’s most likely regular habitat up the river. It took him a minute to realize what he was looking at as he certainly wasn’t expecting to see an otter floating around happily in the open ocean.
If you happen to spot, or have spotted in the past, an otter on the British coastline or in an estuarine environment then please do get in touch to add your sighting to Dan’s research.
The information that Dan would really benefit from is:
· Location: please try to as specific as possible, a grid reference is ideal but don’t worry if you cannot provide one.
· Date (day, month and year)
· Approximate time of day
· Details of what you saw. Please include as much information as possible. Did you see the otter on the beach, on rocky areas, or in the sea? How many otters did you observe? Have you seen them at this location before?
Please send any information to:
Dan Forman, Coastal Otters Project, Department of Biosciences, College of Science, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP
Or email your sightings to: [email protected]