Looking for otters on the River Usk

In February I agreed to help Cardiff University with some Otter surveying on the River Usk. A previous survey had been carried out in the 1980’s, so the hope was that the new data could be cross referenced with the old.

A spraint amongst the flowers.

A spraint amongst the flowers.

A key part of this was to collect samples of ‘Spraint’. These are droppings that the Otters use to mark sites within their territory. By examining these under a microscope we can gather information on the health of the animal, the undigested fish bones give a good insight into the animals diet and what fish it preys upon in the river.

Favoured location, can you spot the spraint?

Favoured location, can you spot the spraint?

I surveyed several sights around Brecon along the River Usk and its tributaries and found signs of Otters at all of them. The flat stone and concrete foundations of Bridges seem to be a favourite place to mark their territories.

You can just about spot their prints.

You can just about spot their prints.

A section of the Usk I look after at Clytha was not part of the survey. As I have been out spraying Giant Hogweed I have found tracks and Spraint that show there is also a healthy population of Otters along this section of the river. This is surprising given its popularity with fishermen and dog walkers.  Here is a link to our river walk at Clytha.

Spraying to control the spread of Giant Hogweed, an invasive species.

Spraying to control the spread of Giant Hogweed, an invasive species.

Simon Rose – Area Ranger

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