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MISE Dwyryd Otter Survey- 10th May 2014

By Danielle Hunt, Zoology with Conservation first year student, Bangor University

This weekend concluded the 12 month project of otter surveying of the Afon Dwyryd catchment, which was organised by Mammals in a Sustainable Environment. MISE projects are organised to monitor rare mammal species, and this project included two previous surveys in May and October 2013 as well as monthly spot checks on key locations. The surveying involved collecting otter spraint (poo) - once collected they are sent for DNA analyse in Ireland to identify sex ratios and look at genetic diversity in the otter population. Six Bangor University students spent their weekend volunteering and becoming experts on otter spraint - we can even identify their spraint by smell (described as smelling like jasmine tea by some).

We also learnt about the habits of otters, such as using a river bank as a slide to have easy access in and out of the river; repeatedly using the same grass tussocks to spraint on and mark territory. 

Across the weekend different sites were allocated to groups of volunteers. On the first day of the survey (Saturday), I went to Gwaith Powdwr. Our group collected 23 spraints. When it was previously surveyed in October 2013 only 5 spraints were collected. The Sunday started as the day before, we were allocated a site near a village called Trawsfynydd and sites along the Afon Prysor River. With hopes high from the vast number of spraints collected previously, this soon faded away. The rain was much heavier than the previous day, which had caused fresh spraints to be washed away or favourite locations otters used to be submerged from the bulging river. After a whole day with no luck our last site came up successful and we finally found 7 spraints sheltered under bridges. What a great way to spend a weekend!

 

This was a grass tussock where multiple otter spraint were found. Favourite spots like these when the grass is removed the layers of soil have bones of animals digested from the otters. This was taken near a coastal area and most of the spraing had remains of crab. But usually it is fish bones and scales or frog bones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A slide used by otters regularly along the Afon Prysor.