News article created on 30 January 2019

Volunteer otter spotters needed for West Midlands canal survey

Join our conservation team spotting for otters this February so we can continue protecting the habitats of these wonderful creatures.


Calling all nature lovers - please come and lend us a hand to look for signs of otters along a stretch of canal in Birmingham. Previous surveys, which we run in partnership with the University of Birmingham, have shown evidence of otters working their way into the centre of Birmingham with one confirmed sighting on the Soho Loop.

The surveys will take place over on the 9th/10th and 16th/17th February and involve walking a stretch of canal looking for signs of otters. In particular, volunteers will be looking for otter droppings, known as spraint, and ‘latrines’ – areas where the animals mark their territory. Volunteers will also be building a picture of the potential for otters by making a note of features such as the amount of vegetation cover, the width of the canal and the variety of plant species visible on the bankside.

On the second weekend (16th/17th February) volunteers will be asked to collect spraint so that it can be sent off for DNA analysis to confirm that it’s from an otter and whether it’s male or female.

Tom Wilding, environmental assistant for the Canal & River Trust, said; “It’s not often that we describe volunteering for the Trust as a load of poo but that’s exactly what this opportunity is – looking for the otter spraint and other signs which show they’ve been in the area. 

“If you’re really lucky you may get to see one of these secretive creatures but more than anything this is about detective work and that’s the really exciting bit. There’s a real thrill when you spot signs of otters where they haven’t been seen before such as on some of our more urban canals. It’s also a great opportunity to get a bit of fresh air and exercise as well as getting to meet new people.

“The fact that we’re even talking about the possibility of otters on the West Midlands’ formerly industrial canals is incredible and a real testament to all the hard work that’s gone in to improving water quality in the region. Today these canals are vital green corridors which provide countless habitats for wildlife as well as giving local people beautiful spaces to escape to.”

The surveys take place over the weekends of 9th/10th and 16th/17th February. No experience is required as a short training session will be given. Anyone interested in helping out with the survey can register their interest here.