Fish selection by riverine Eurasian otters in lowland England

Abstract

Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) may conflict with humans using fish stocks for food, income or recreation. Understanding fish selection by otters is important for predicting and managing potential conflicts. We used spraint analysis to describe the diet of Eurasian otters on rivers in the Upper Thames Valley, lowland England, in summer and winter, focusing specifically on the species and size of fish consumed. We assessed the proportion of fish consumed that were of potential commercial or sporting value (the ‘Potential Value’ category). Within this group, we assessed relative selection for family and length by comparing fish found in otter diet with their local availability. Local availability was estimated from UK Environment Agency electrofishing survey data. Fish represented 46 % (relative frequency of occurrence, RFO) of total otter diet, with fish of Potential Value representing 19 % (RFO). In the Potential Value category, cyprinids were relatively avoided; percids and esocids were relatively preferred. Most (∼80 %) fish prey items originated from fish 4–13 cm in length, 3 % from fish > 20 cm. Smaller (0–10 cm) percids and cyprinids, and larger (16–20 cm) esocids, were preferred. In summer, diet was broad, comprising 31 % (RFO) fish, 24 % birds and 14 % crayfish. In winter, diet was predominantly fish (68 % RFO) with crayfish and birds accounting for ∼5 % each. In summer, most fish consumed (70 % RFO) were the relatively slow-swimming common bullhead (Cottus gobio). Significantly more of the faster-swimming cyprinids were consumed in winter, presumably because they are easier to catch when the water is colder.

DOI: 10.1007/s13364-015-0223-3

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Cite this paper

@article{Grant2015FishSB, title={Fish selection by riverine Eurasian otters in lowland England}, author={Kathryn R. Grant and Lauren A. Harrington}, journal={Mammal Research}, year={2015}, volume={60}, pages={217-231} }