The Otter Survey 2016

Pictured Above: An Otter.

Pictured Above: An Otter on the riverbank.

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) are conducting a survey on the population of otters found along the river Dodder. This includes the stretch of the river that goes through Donnybrook, Clonskeagh, Ballsbridge and Ringsend.

This survey will be a repeat and an update on the findings and statistics of the previous survey made back in 2012. This survey is funded by Dublin City Council and private donations.

Key aspects of this survey will include examining the effects of pollution to the ecology, the presence of mink along the Dodder, threats to habitat and whether otter numbers have increased or decreased.

Otters are aquatic animals, members of the mustelid family (a close cousin of the stoat and the pine marten) mostly found in freshwater habitats, but there are thriving populations on the west coast of Ireland.

Ireland has one of the healthiest populations and distributions of otter in Western Europe and this is due to the preservation of our well-maintained water system of canals and rivers. They are strictly nocturnal animals, but they can be spotted early in the morning during the summer months.

NewsFour attended a workshop held by the IWT on Saturday morning the 27th February in Herbert Park. This event was hosted and co-ordinated by Tim Clabon and Lorraine Bull after a two-hour talk with tea and coffee provided.

Volunteers, students and participants alike went for a walk along the River Dodder through Herbert Park and out along Ballsbridge. We were instructed to look for signs of otter spraints (otter droppings contain fish shells, bones and remnants of crustaceans) along the banks and rocks for signs of otters in the area. It was a rather amusing incident when a sample of otter poo was handed round for everyone to sniff, we were told that it “smells like dried hay or even Jasmine tea!”

The group were instructed and taught the difference in tracks and prints, with otters, mink, dogs and even rats. Everyone was well kitted and prepared for changes in the weather or in case we might go down into the mucky banks below.

Above: Lorraine Bull and Tim Clabon from the IWT out on the Dodder.

Above: Lorraine Bull and Tim Clabon from the IWT out on the Dodder.

Otters live in holts, which are burrows found in the slopes of the river bank, usually well maintained for easy access to and from the water. Several volunteers, including Tim, the coordinator of the IWT, brought along binoculars and various telescopic lenses for carefully inspecting the riverbanks.

Although the group did not spot any otters, nor find much evidence on the day for recent otter habitation, we did spot a beautiful kingfisher darting past us in close view. I was also delighted to see the grounds of the RDS full of wintering curlews searching for a quick meal.

This gathering of enthusiasts and otter lovers is the initial briefing and training on the survey that will commence over the next month along the different bridges and banks of the Dodder, including its course through Dublin 4.

If anyone would like to contribute a donation or volunteer for the IWT, then contact through the website for further information and updates on the survey. You can email photos, descriptions and info on otter sightings to the Irish Wildlife Trust. This project is ongoing and will be affected by weather conditions. The IWT will be organising walks and meetings along the Dodder over the month of April.

By Robert Fullarton