Somerset Otter Group Update.

July 2014

 Somerset Otter Group Website, www.somersetottergroup.org.uk

The Somerset Otter Group Website was started in October 2012. Since that date it has had 4,338 visits by 2,714 different visitors. 16,903 pages have been viewed with an average of 3.9 pages viewed per session. An average of 3 minutes spent on each visit, some are very short visits to the home page to check for new entries, other visits are over 30 minutes. James Williams truly has taken the otter group onto the world stage, we have had visitors from 60 countries.

New items on the website include a Somerset Life magazine article written by James Williams published in 2010. It is informative and written in James’s unique style, containing gems such as describing an otter as ‘weighing approximately a fox-and-a-half to two foxes’. It can be found in Records and Publications under Reports.

Dead Otter Collection

We now have 19 surveyors prepared to pick up otters and take to one of the three freezers in Somerset. The surveyors are across the catchments so we now have most areas covered. Visit http://www.otterproject.cf.ac.uk/ to update yourself with the work of Cardiff University, a link to their site can be found on our website. Let Jo Pearse know if you would like to be added to the group of collectors.

Births and Deaths

So far in 2014 we have had 15 dead otters reported. All bar two have been taken for post mortem. One that escaped us, was last seen being loaded into a van and driven away! The number compares to previous years, so at the moment there is no obvious increase or reduction in found deaths.

Six of the deaths were from the Parrett area, one of our larger catchments. Three came from the Brue reserves at Shapwick and one from Exmoor..

Four were also found across the Tone catchment, two of which looked emaciated. Lucy is asking for prompt post mortems on these two in case of anything we should be aware of. Mel Keating took a photo of the otter she picked up in June.

It makes for sad viewing, but can add something to the records. If any collectors do take photos please can they be forwarded to Jo Pearse. Of special interest will be those taken in situ, where the road is shown. Please do take extra care if taking photographs though.

Working with others

As ever the Somerset Otter Group maintains links with other groups and agencies. Serc is one of the most important, storing all the records from those of us that complete monthly surveys. At the start of this month it moved to new premises in Taunton – 34 Wellington Road, Taunton, TA1 5AW Their email address and telephone number remain the same.

Environment Agency

We spend so much of our time concerned with our otters that this story passed on by Adrian Evans shows that the otter may not share our concerns.

“On Weds 12th March I attended Saltmoor Pumping Station, near Burrowbridge to assist with

overnight pumping duties. It was my first visit to the station and it was a large and noisy operation

with several generators running pumps to boost the diesel engine on site. Shortly after it got dark, I

happened to be standing on the bank near the point where several pumps were discharging into the

River Parret, under powerful floodlights. As I looked down into the river , a head popped up, swam a few feet and then disappeared. It was my first Otter sighting! Things got better later as it returned

shortly after and I spent 10 minutes watching it hunt along the river bank within full sight. At one

point, it caught a small fish and left the water’s edge to eat it just 20 feet from us! It was totally

oblivious to our presence, the strong floodlights and noisy pumps. It made my night and fulfilled a

life-long ambition I’ve held to actually see a wild otter.”

IUCN The Specialist Otter Group

See below for an excellent piece of news from the international Otter Specialist Group

“I have good news from Switzerland: after 25 years, wild otters are back in

our country. Thanks to the expansion of the French otter population in the

Rhone river system, the species has reached the surroundings of Geneva.

The canton of Geneva has a strong tradition in conservation and is a leader

in the field still today. This means that the we can hope, that the local

administration will do its best to help the otter to establish in the

watercourses around Geneva.

We had some erratic observations of single otters and some animals escaped

form captivity during the last ten years, but now we have the first record

of an otter seemingly belonging to what could be called a continuous viable

otter population (viable in France, not yet in Switzerland!).

best wishes to everybody out in the otter world from a very happy

Darius Weber”

 Introductory pack for New Members.

Work has begun on updating the Introductory pack for new members. Unless any members have a store of the old ones, the last few we know about were used by Janet Dixon when conducting the training day at Simondsbath in March. Until the new ones are printed people will have to refer to the website.

Best Wishes,

Jo Pearse.