Birmingham’s canals in need of volunteer otter spotters

Volunteer otter spotters needed | postcardcv, Flickr CC2.0

Volunteer otter spotters needed | postcardcv, Flickr CC2.0 - Credit: Archant

If you can commit to a walk along the city’s canals each week for two months looking for signs of otters and their habitats, then get involved

A pair of otters getting to grips with the ice | Angie Vogel, Flickr CC2.0

A pair of otters getting to grips with the ice | Angie Vogel, Flickr CC2.0 - Credit: Archant

Organisers of the first formal survey of the otter population on Birmingham’s canals are looking for volunteers.

Students from the University of Birmingham, with the help of the Canal & River Trust, hope to see how the well-loved mammals are doing in the region’s more urban environments.

Volunteers will be asked to walk along a section of the canals every week for two months, looking for signs, such as droppings (known as spraint) and ‘latrines’, areas where otters mark their territory. Vegetation cover, the width of the waterway and plant species on the bank are also considerations.

Otters have large territories so if they are faring well, it is an indicator that the waterway and its fish population are thriving. Thanks to better water quality and conservation efforts, numbers across Britain have been rising in recent years, having seen a marked decline since the 1950s.

The survey aims to monitor shrews in canalside hedgerows too, especially the elusive water shrew.

“What we need to do now is to build up a picture of where both otters and shrews are and that’s where we need the help of local people,” said Trust ecologist Paul Wilkison.

“Their support will enable us to see exactly where these important species are most active and, importantly, where they aren’t so that we can the put measures in place to extend the safe habitats available.”

For more information on becoming a volunteer, contact Paul at

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