How to spot an otter

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Following Audlem Online's story on Sunday about signs of otters along the canal, Sheila McKelvey writes with helpful advice on what to look for: "I was very interested to read about the otter situation in Audlem. I have been keeping surveilance of otter spraints at Cox Bank for approximately three years now.

"My eldest sister, Jan, is a conservation officer for Shropshire Wildlife Trust; she showed me what to look for. The spraints are the otter's droppings and are black or dark greenish: they have a distinctive musky and fishy smell, which consist of fish bones."

We should have added in our story on Sunday that Paul Chanin, after seeing spraints to the north of Audlem, did look to the south along the run of locks. Again he found distinctive evidence of otter activity.

Paul is an internationally known mammal ecologist who has been involved in conservation, in Devon and nationally, since the 1970s. He is best known for his work with otters and for the two books he has written about them — the Natural History of Otters and Otters. He has also carried out or supervised research on British mammals including badgers, mink, pine marten and red deer as well as more exotic species such as beavers and spider monkeys.

He was a lecturer in Adult Education at Exeter University for 24 years, mainly running natural history courses. He is a life member of the Devon and Cornwall Wildlife Trusts. He is also a member of the Zoological Society of London, the British Ecological Society and the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. He is Vice Chairman of the Mammal Society and a Trustee of Paignton Zoo.


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