Northumberland launches otter survey

An otter mother and cub. Picture by Elliott Neep
An otter mother and cub. Picture by Elliott Neep

Northumberland Wildlife Trust is launching its first county-wide otter survey since 2002, thanks to new funding.

It has been unable to carry out specific otter conservation work due to changing priorities and lack of funding, but now, thanks to the People’s Postcode Lottery, Kevin O’Hara, Trust conservation officer and small mammals expert, will be able to survey a large number of sites across the whole county.

Armed with rubber gloves, small sticks and sample bags, Kevin and his team will be collecting samples of otter spraint (droppings) some of which will be sent to the Waterford Institute, Eire, for DNA analysis which may indicate numbers sex, individuals present at each location, with any movement between sites possibly giving an indication of population.

It will also identify specific genetic markers showing the origin of Northumberland’s otters and whether there are any possible inherent problems within the population – all vital to the conservation of the species.

Kevin said: “The support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery is fabulous news for otters in the region as the money will also be used to train my team of volunteers, liaise with landowners regarding survey permissions, as well as delivering the DNA analysis, report writing and publication of results – it really is vital for our conservation efforts in this region, so please keep playing.”

Kevin is looking for volunteers to join him on the project team from June onwards, and would love to hear from anybody who would like to get involved. Call Emma Craig or Sarah Marley for an informal chat on 0191 2846884. Some experience of mammal tracking would be advantageous, but not essential, as full training will be given.