Monday, 24 April 2017

Tame Valley Otter

With my trail cameras, I have managed to capture pictures of many local badgers and foxes, a few muntjac, and even a polecat which I have captured on camera twice. However, an Otter by design is a challenge I recently set for myself.

I spent hours walking the banks of our local rivers looking for otter signs and activity. I found spraints, tracks in the mud and even the odd tail drag, but that alone is only half the battle when positioning a trail camera. You also have to consider if the location you have chosen to position the camera allows for the camera to be concealed from human sight. If it isn't, it's quite likely you won't ever see your trail camera again.

I eventually found a promising looking spot of wet sediment just above current water level that was covered in a myriad of animal tracks. I could make out water bird and duck footprints, mixed with rat and a couple of decent looking mink tracks. There were so many tracks it was difficult to be sure of some of them as they all merged together, but there were two tracks that looked like they could have been left by an otter to me. There was no tail drag visible, and only four toes/pads evident rather than the five in a text book otter print, but in reality, text book prints tend to only exist in text books!

I smoothed the mud over and left it waiting to receive more tracks.

I returned a few days later and again it was a mixture of interlaced prints with origins of fur and feather. There was one promising looking print that again looked good for an otter, a good pad size, but again only four toes/pads visible.

I returned later that day and set up a trail camera to see what it would reveal.

First results were poor! The trail camera position needed some refining but, I did learn from the footage where I should put the camera for best results. It also confirmed an otter was indeed passing through this area.
First attempt

I repositioned the camera and left it to its own devices hoping I could get some better results for my efforts.

I was very pleased with my second attempt after repositioning the trail camera. Some decent otter record shots.

Also, a bit of video footage. I am learning the ropes with my new video editing program, this is the best of many attempts.

You can see the otter is cautious approaching the camera and backs away. Maybe it heard the PIR sensor click as it activated, or noticed the dull red glow of the infrared illuminator. Or,  maybe it is just exhibiting natural caution to an unfamiliar object in its territory.