For the past week I have been out working with otters in the county of Värmland. This is an annual census which we have been doing since 2002. The otter was previously in quite a severe situation mostly due to toxins and hunting and is now recovering.
This census is a cooperation between Länsstyrelsen i Värmland and Klarälvdalens folkhögskola. While it is a very thorough census, it is also a chance to practice practical survey techniques for the students of Natur- och faunavårdslinjen.
We are primarily looking for signs as in scats and pugmarks in sand or mud. The otter lives mostly off fish and hunts in rivers and lakes. While not defending territories they have what we call home ranges. While moving around its home range an otter will frequently go up on strategic locations and place a dropping there as a signal to other otters and as a way of communicating. The smell of these scats is quite unique and they smell almost sweet. This is what sets them apart from other similar droppings from mink and marten. Normally they also contain remains of fish.
Strategic locations to search are bridges over waterways and piers with rocks underneath on lakes. Otters prefer to place their scats on locations with overhang and preferably on rocks.
We were interviewed by both Nya Wermlands-Tidningen and Värmlands Folkblad. NWT published an article on 2013-09-20 and VF on 2013-09-21 and the latter was on the front page.