Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Otter spraint?

I admit I was gutted when the voles moved up from White Lion Meadow car park (near Tesco), but their absence has made me look further afield. This evening I had a walk through Whitchurch Country Park and found stacks of water vole prints under both bridges, and also this possible otter spraint in the same place the survey group found one last year. It certainly smelled of fish oil, so I can't think what other type of scat it can have been. I include this photo of a feeding station, but not at all confident it isn't field vole!
On the way back to the car I saw a water vole nip across the brook from one bank to the other.
Added 9/6/2007 - I'm now not sure these footprints are water vole. they may be rat, more splayed out then usual because of the soft mud.


Dave said...

They certainly do look to have scaly or bone matter in them when you see them closer up. I’ve also read the smell of jasmine tea or new mown hay! They can be up to 8cm long but I guess they fragment with time. How big were these?

We’re not up on otters much and were surprised to learn they can be a metre in length. The only one I’ve ever seen in the wild was thirty years ago on a Scottish loch and it was a long long way away.

Are you up or down stream of the car-park here?

Kate said...

Length's tricky because it was made up of several 'nuggets' all kind of blending into each other. The fragments are probably about 4 or 5 cm long. If you click on the top one to enlarge it, I'm sure you can see fish fins or tails in there.

I've only ever seen otters in captivity. They're terrifically shy, I gather. But I've seen an otter couch by a pool outside Whitchurch, so I think they're in the area.

This section's downstream from the place where I saw the prints, but quite a long way away and the water course goes under the town for a good way. So if the other prints were otter*, I doubt it's the same creature.

*(The people at Shropshire Wildlife think they may be, but another ecologist I know is more inclined to mink. I may go down again at the weekend and look for any other signs.)

IAN said...

That is otter spraint. They can vary in size a great deal and do not always contain fish bones. Dave is correct in saying they have a very distict smell and it is not unpleasent at all. The smell will stay with the sparint for some time. I have a collection of spraints and they are all different you really have to go by smell in some cases. And also loke out for jelly spraints which are a anal secretion they are quite rare to see as they can look just like a rain drop but they have that smell!


Ian L

Kate said...

Blimey! Cheers, Ian.