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Calling all otter spotters

otter spottersOTTER sightings on the Pembrokeshire coastline are on the increase, but extra help is needed to find out more about this furry wildlife favourite.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority has teamed up with Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Officer Sue Burton to ask people to report coastal otter sightings for a county-wide research project.More than 60 sightings have been recorded by members of the public on the Pembrokeshire Coast since the project began two months ago.

National Park Ranger Ian Meopham said: “We only have one type of otter in the UK – the Eurasian Otter – which is most commonly found living in freshwater, but in Scotland these otters make constant use of the sea, and it seems that in Pembrokeshire they are spending a lot of time on the coast too.

“People have spotted them around St Davids, Stackpole, and Abermawr. Quite a lot of the reports so far have been from sea kayakers, surfers and people out coasteering. Someone was even lucky enough to spot an otter with a guillemot [sea bird] in its mouth.”

Ian is inviting people to report sightings to Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre in St Davids, where you can pinpoint your otter spot on a map. A logbook will then be passed on to Pembrokeshire Marine SAC Officer Sue Burton for the project, which is a repeat of a 2002 coastal survey and looks to establish whether the otters making use of the coast are a separate population to those using the inland waterways.

Sue said: “We already know there are otters using this part of the coastline for foraging and even breeding. What we want to know now is whether they are using it seasonally or whether the same otters are active on the coast all year.

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“As well as new otter sightings, we are interested in sightings going back to 2002, especially any sightings north of Newport, and east of Bosherston as we currently have few recorded sightings in these areas. We do rely heavily on sightings from the public so the more otter spotters, the better!”

The Park Authority also uses information about current sightings to advise outdoor activity providers about particularly sensitive areas of coastline, so they can avoid disturbing the otters and their habitat. Report your otter sightings at Oriel y Parc (open daily, 10am-4.30pm) or call Sue Burton on 01646 696108 or email [email protected], giving the date, time and place where you spotted your otter.

Sue Burton is giving a talk with Geoff Lyles, of The Otter Consultancy, at the Marine Wildlife Sightings event on November 20th, run by Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum at the Merlin Theatre, Haverfordwest.