New survey seeks help from public to record otter sightings

By Emily Price.

People are being encouraged to report otter sightings in the Vale of Glamorgan for a new survey. 

‘Project Otter’ will be led by officers from the Countryside Service of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and will establish the state of the otter population. 

Image by Tom Wright. An otter surfaces in Ogmore Estuary.

£10,000 from the Waterloo Foundation has been secured to help fund the project.  

The survey, working alongside Cardiff University, will look for evidence of otters including dung, feeding remains, underground dens, tracks and sites used for resting in the day.  

Training is on offer to any volunteers who would like to get involved with the first online session taking place in mid-March.  

When COVID-19 restrictions lift, survey training will then take place on local rivers.  

In Wales, the otter is a largely nocturnal animal and rarely observed in the wild. Otters have been recorded on all rivers in the Vale, but the surveys have been limited and only provided a snapshot of information. 

This new project will build a better picture of the otter population and help to formulate a plan to provide better habitats.  

Melanie Stewart is Site Ranger for Porthkerry Park and with a wide range of conservation management experience she is one of the officers leading ‘Project Otter’.  

Melanie said: “I was sent a fantastic video from someone living in the Vale of otters frolicking in a garden. I just knew we needed a new survey. 

“We have so far had 35 people contact us to volunteer for the project and there’s been lots of sightings of otters recently. 

“I’m not sure why there’s been so many recent sightings, it could be that lockdown has made people notice more or it could just be that the otter population is doing well right now.” 

Image by Tom Wright. An otter in Ogmore Estuary.

It’s hoped that at the end of the summer the project will identify five suitable locations for new otter habitats. 

By the end of November, the Vale of Glamorgan Countryside staff and volunteers will begin fencing and planting on appropriate sites. 

Melanie said: “We would like to get as much information from the public on any evidence of otters. 

“We’ve already received so many sightings throughout the Vale, including Ogmore, Cowbridge, Rhoose Point and Peterson-super-Ely.”  

The survey will also benefit community and volunteers as the it will encourage people to get together in a natural setting and support a local project. 

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