The recent installation of an artificial otter holt at The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Pembroke Upper Mill Pond nature reserve has already got tenants.
The structure, which was funded through the Co-op Welsh Wildlife Heroes grant, was installed in April this year with help of local Wildlife Trust volunteers and sits among an area of willow and alder carr on the edge of the reedbed and Pembroke river, which flows through the reserve.
A recent visit by Dave Levell, one of the reserve’s keen volunteers, showed clear evidence of otter activity through tracks and markings leading in and out of the holt along with the identification of many spraints nearby.
It is well known that the Pembroke Mill Pond complex has one of the largest urban populations of otter in Wales and that they frequent the Upper Mill Pond nature reserve on almost a daily basis.
It is the first time that a holt has been used on the reserve and so is an exciting addition to the site.
It is still not clear whether it is being used as a breeding holt and the Wildlife Trust shall keep a look out for any cubs that may appear to confirm this.
Nathan Walton, Wildlife Trust Officer for Pembrokeshire said: “The support from the Co-op, its members and its customers really is helping to protect our wildlife.
"It is great news to know that we now have otters residing on the reserve as opposed to just passing through. The reserve is free from public access which is key to providing good areas of undisturbed habitat and ideal conditions for otter. I am surprised at how quickly it has been occupied and of course, very pleased.”
The otter is a European Protected Species (EPS) and one of our most charismatic yet elusive mammals. It is mainly nocturnal and rather shy although good sightings can be seen during the day in the Middle and Lower Mill Ponds. It is also one of conservation’s success stories: following a catastrophic decline during the 1950’s and 1960’s, there are now healthy otter populations throughout most of Wales.
This has been brought about by a ban on the most harmful pesticides, and the ongoing protection of their water-side habitats.
It is against the law to damage or destroy an otter breeding site or resting place (holt or couch), or deliberately to capture, kill, injure or disturb an otter.
The project was supported through money raised in Co-op food stores through the requirement to charge 5p for carrier bags – the six Wildlife Trusts in Wales are using funds from the Co-op to save our most endangered wildlife and wild places for future generations to enjoy.