Saturday, 6 February 2010

Otter Tracks for Jilly

A comment was posted, by Jilly, regarding otter tracks
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Their tracks have been noticeable in this wintry weather, having been easily seen on the main North Tyne river and it's tributaries. A good few years back I had a crack (conversation) with a lad from the otter trust and he confirmed that there was a good population to be found in the North Tyne area, they are also to be found on Kielder Reservoir where a hide at Bakethin is often used in the hope of spotting them.

It seems many years ago now since I tagged along with a neighbouring farmers wife to go on a hunt for otter spraint. She had volunteered to help some conservation lot cover our tributaries to see if there were signs of otters. It took no time at all to find what she was looking for.

I did worry that my street cred may be lost forever as I paddled about in the burns scrutinising rocks then sniffing piles of poo (spraint), at the time I truly hoped no one was likely to see me. Sniffing poo? Well, this was either a very clever piss take or else it was cosha - after looking over my shoulder many times to ensure I was not being watched and going to turn up on some weird TV programme I did finally submit and sniff. Mink and Otter have similar toilet habits, their spraint looks slightly dissimilar and believe it or not they smell slightly differently too - at least they did to my nose!
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Otters are related to the ferrets I keep, very similar creatures just a darn sight bigger. Possess one of those hinged jaws which if anything like a ferret wont be easy to extricate yourself from. They have been around for years, like the adder they are thought to be rare but most probably due to the shyness of both species it would mebbes be fairer to say they are difficult to spot, preferring to sidle away than be in the limelight.

Although noted for being aquatic they cover a lot of ground on foot but tend to do most of their travelling at night. Again undoubtedly difficult creatures to find as the lad from the otter trust also informed me that they had huge territories and travelled miles in their quest for food, needing to eat something like 15-20% of their body weight every day.
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Mainly fish eaters but apparently will take mammals as well, they have caused havoc in the area with fish ponds and fowl in the past. When I enquired if they would take lambs I was told if the opportunity arose and they were hungry then yes they would. Apparently they only like fresh food, quite capable of eating the tastiest bit then discarding the rest and wont then return the next day to clear up - fussy things!

There have been a number of sightings in Tarset, one caught in car headlights eating an eel which apparently is the otters favourite food. They've been seen in the forestry even and out following drains on the hill which proves they do like to cross country. Personally I have never sighted one in Tarset although I do believe I've heard them (they omit a high pitched whistle). Many have heard splashes consistent with something large entering the water and I guess other than good luck or a very sound knowledge of their holt(home), that'll be about the best you'll get.
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2 comments:

jilly said...

thanks shep....excellant

Tarset Shepherd said...

Thanks Jilly, pleased to be of help.