Brum­mie ot­ters

Canal Boat - - News -

FANCY A SPOT OF ot­ter-spot­ting on Birm­ing­ham’s canals? The Canal & River Trust is look­ing for vol­un­teers to carry out the first for­mal sur­vey into how one of the na­tion’s best-loved mam­mals is far­ing in the area.

Since the 1950s the num­ber of ot­ters on Bri­tain’s wa­ter­ways have been in de­cline, due to a com­bi­na­tion of habi­tat loss, per­se­cu­tion and the use of pes­ti­cides. How­ever, ot­ter num­bers have been mak­ing a come­back in re­cent years due to bet­ter wa­ter qual­ity and ef­forts to im­prove their habi­tats.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have fo­cussed on ot­ter pop­u­la­tions in rivers but now the Trust, work­ing with stu­dents from the Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham, is about to be­gin the first proper study into how they are do­ing in the re­gion’s more ur­ban canal en­vi­ron­ments.

The vol­un­teers will be asked to walk along the city’s canals each week for two months look­ing for signs of ot­ters. They’ll also be build­ing a pic­ture of the po­ten­tial for ot­ters by mak­ing a note of fea­tures such as the amount of veg­e­ta­tion cover, the width of the canal and the va­ri­ety of plant species vis­i­ble on the bank­side.

The team will also be mon­i­tor­ing shrews in canal­side hedgerows, in par­tic­u­lar the elu­sive wa­ter shrew which has ven­omous saliva that it uses to stun its prey of frogs, shrimps or cad­dis fly lar­vae – and which, thank­fully, is harm­less to hu­mans.

“Just a few years ago, you would never have imag­ined that ot­ters would be seen on Birm­ing­ham’s for­merly in­dus­trial canals, yet that’s ex­actly what they’ve been do­ing over the past few years,” said Paul Wilkin­son, ecol­o­gist for the Canal & River Trust.

“What we need to do now is to build up a pic­ture of where both ot­ters and shrews are and that’s where we need the help of lo­cal peo­ple.”

To find out more about be­com­ing a vol­un­teer ot­ter spot­ter con­tact Paul Wilkin­son at en­quiries. west­mid­lands@canal­rivertrust.org.uk

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