Otters on the marsh! So what’s next?

These might be the beginnings of the first blooms on the marsh this year.

19th February 2012:  Having established that at least one otter is active along the marsh section of the River Stour, and because of its protected status, it is sensible to minimise disturbance close to the river during marsh workdays. I think, though, we would need to be cutting trees down along the river bank, or at the edge of the wood bordering the corridor to the tenant farmer’s field, or interfering with brash piles in the area of the corridor, before there would be any risk of disturbing otters that “might” be in residence close by.

View into the swamp.

Otters will set up home in a quiet, secluded place close to water; in a pipe or hole, perhaps; under a brash pile, maybe; or along the banks of rivers and streams, and close to a lake or pond. Often, the holt is screened by tree roots, or something else that will help obscure the entrance. An otter does not always live below ground; it will sometimes rest above ground on a “couch.” A “couch” can be flattened vegetation, or a lie-up under a brash pile or under fallen logs.

View into the swamp.

75% to 95% of a freshwater otter’s diet is fish – any fish, I don’t think it has a preference. Otters will, if necessary, eat frogs, ground-nesting birds, beetles and ducks, as part of its 1.5 kilo daily food requirement. Small fish are eaten in the water, and large prey is dragged onto dry ground and eaten. Otters are mainly nocturnal animals. In quiet and undisturbed areas, they are active during the day.

The recent otter activity on the marsh could all be down to a transient, or a succession of transients, but it might signify the presence of breeding bitch. It could be that the marsh is a small part of a dog otter’s home range, which might encompass 40 kilometres of waterway, and he could have a number of holts and couches within his territory. Females have smaller home ranges.

Middle section of North Pond.

Male and female otters usually only come together to mate. One of the signs that mating might be occurring within an area, is the discovery of spraints in prominent places like on rocks, logs and fallen branches, and on grassy mounds. These spraints mark the otter’s territory. Otter spraints are black when fresh and sweet smelling – a little like lavender. Mink spraints smell horrible. I regularly find otter and mink spraints along the large water pipes, and around North Pond.

South end of the withy wood.

The male otter plays no part in rearing of cubs and is driven from the holt, by the female, before the young are born.

Otters breed all year round. With a gestation period of 63 days, the bitch will give birth to two or three toothless and blind cubs. These will remain helpless for up to six weeks and will not be allowed in the water before they are three to four months old. They will stay with their mother for up to a year.

So, the possible presence of breeding pair of otters on the marsh is added to my list of things to look out for and to confirm, if possible.

6 Comments on “Otters on the marsh! So what’s next?

    • You are welcome, Vicki. Whether it is running free in the countryside or captive in a zoo, it is still an otter. I am glad that you have had the opportunity of seeing this wonderful animal – they are not easy seen in the wild, unless it is known where and when to look. 🙂

  1. I am learning so much about your nature reserve. I live in a large city but one of their goals is to maintain nature reserves and to keep developers from impacting small green-space havens. I live near a 22 acre nature park that to look at is rather boring. But I’ve walked through it and have experienced some of its wildlife (flora mainly but some fowl). Reading about Wilden Marsh, I’m beginning to wonder just what else I’m missing because I don’t look deep enough. I really love your posts.

    • I am very pleased that you find my posts interesting and educational, and I thank you for taking the time to let me know. Your local 22-acre reserve (a quarter the size of Wilden Marsh) sounds most exciting. You might be missing a great deal if you are not closely investigating its fauna and flora. I suggest that you take your camera to the reserve, look in and around the vegetation and shrubbery, and photograph anything of interest. If you find insects, animals or plants that are unfamiliar to you, submit your images to your country’s equivalent of http://www.ispot.org.uk/. The people at ispot will identify your finds for you. In this way, you will be able to build an in-depth knowledge of the fauna and flora within your local reserve.

      I think it most important that you take your time: walk slowly. Don’t be afraid to look under the stone, the leaf litter, or the rotting log. The wildlife is not going to stand to attention when it sees you approach: more likely it will hide from you. 🙂

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