Otters at Coldham

Video footage reveals The Co-operative Farms have otters at their farm in Coldham



Cameras inside an otter holt installed at Coldham farm in July has revealed the endangered otter has moved in.  

In the summer of 2010 an exciting discovery was made when an otter expert found otter spraints (droppings) on the riverbank of the farm in Cambridgeshire, suggesting there were otters in the area. Following the find The Co-operative Farms invested in an artificial holt fitted with a camera system to provide a resting place for otters.

The Co-operative Farms funded the build, which was constructed by otter expert Cliff Carson, an Environment Officer from the Middle Level Commissioners responsible for the upkeep of the Fenland Rivers.

The fact that we have already seen otters using the holt is described by Cliff as "very very exciting." This is the 39th holt Cliff has installed in the Fenland area but the first time he has seen an otter using one in three years. The otter footage from Coldham is particularly interesting as it often takes years - rather than months - for the mammals to get used to man-made holts and begin to frequent them.

A holt is naturally found under the roots of old riverbank trees but are often cleared away unknowingly by humans. Otter numbers have declined in this country since the 1960s, due to depletion of their natural habitats but are now increasing again. Man-made holts provide an ideal home for otters while their natural habitats recover.

An artificial holt is constructed of breeze blocks and paving slabs and is built to last 20 years or more. As it is built underground into the river bank all that is visible on completion are two entrance pipes at the waters edge.

The holt has been installed with an infrared motion detection camera system so that The Co-operative Farms can monitor any activity within the holt and ensure it is providing the best conditions for any otters choosing to move in. The camera only switches on and begins recording when activity is detected in the holt. The Co-operative Farms have been able to connect the camera to a continuous electricity supply, increasing the chance of capturing the unique footage of the shy otter.

A series of video clips showed an otter visiting the holt five times over a three week period during November and December. On each occasion it left a spraint, a scent marker left to communicate its presence to other otters, on the bedding inside the holt. Images taken actually inside an otter holt are very rare and it is believed these are among the first to be recorded!

The screening above shows some of the activity that we have captured. The otters have obviously found a haven from the cold in the Coldham farm’s holt but their presence also proves that the location was perfectly chosen. This exciting news suggests that the farm will celebrate the arrival of many more otters in the future so stay tuned!