OTTER ROAD DEATHS ON MULL
A recent Facebook Posting by Mull Otter Group raised the continuing problem of otters being killed when crossing the island's roads.
Below is the posting and MOG's reply to a question about the deaths. Comment was also made in relation to badger deaths on mainland roads and I have commented on that below the main article.
Mull Otter Group
"(There Are) More Questions than Answers!
On the Isle of Mull we don't have a monopoly when it comes to otters dying on our roads. Otters die as a consequence of road traffic accidents (r.t.a) throughout their range in Europe and Asia.
In Germany, results from post-mortem analysis suggest that many of the otters that die as a result of r.t.a are already ill or disabled in some way. This may help explain an animal's inability to avoid passing traffic on roads.
MOG sought to gain some correlation with the results of a recent batch of 18 otter corpses from Mull that have undergone autopsy at Cardiff University. However, none of the dead animals showed any sign of illness or injury, other than those consistent with having been hit by a vehicle at speed.
Autopsy can often reveal hidden clues to the life of an otter, some of which may be incorporated into the way we seek to conserve and protect these iconic creatures.
Yet, at other times, we are simply left to scratch our heads still further, as results continue to throw up more questions than answers!"
PM Asked this question:
"Really saddened to read the mortality rate on Mull (ie 18). In what period was that, and how do the numbers relate to the estimated population? Just curious."
Mull Otter Group responded:
"As part of MOG's ongoing research we send all our otter rta for post-mortem analysis. Corpses are stored and sent to Cardiff University in batches. This is what appears to work best all round. MOG has recovered 38 otters (27 of which were rta) between 1st Jan. 2013 and 24th Sep. 2015.
We currently have little knowledge as to the transient population of otters on the island or to how sustainable or otherwise otter deaths from rta are. Otter populations can be surprisingly difficult to assess accurately without time, effort and money.
Upsetting to see, indeed to hear about! Too much road kill these days. Have actually seen 2 Badgers in space of 4 weeks! An Otter did run across road in front of my car few years ago! Loch Creran area! Personally think some just get 'unlucky'!
Presumably, many more otters cross the road safely than, indeed, get knocked down, Joy.
Otters have wide ranging territories and bitches often seek natal holts far inland of their foraging areas at the coast.
Here, on the Isle of Mull, the problem lies in that much of the island's 194 mile road network runs adjacent to where otters spend much of their lives, near the sea.
They have little option, at times, but to cross these roads. We just wish that they would do so via culverts!
Simply Mull's Comments:
We in the Midlands see badgers on a very regular basis dead at the side of the road.
New year is particularly bad as the cubs often get kicked out of the sett and have to find their own territory. The worst problem for badgers is that they are nocturnal, dark in colour and use the same well-worn paths to cross roads.
Tunnels have been included in many new road schemes with fences 'filtering' them into the tunnel and keeping them away from the road.
Otters in Scotland are a completely different issue, especially on Mull.
I totally agree with MOG that Mull's coastal roads put the otters in direct conflict with passing vehicles.
They can and do cross roads at all time of the day and at dusk.
It is difficult to see how they can be protected on a road that is also a main ferry access route with vehicles often travelling up to and above the speed limit.
On many other coastal roads on Mull, vehicle speeds should not be so high and conflict should be easier to avoid.
Unfortunately, when an otter has its mind focussed on getting to a holt or going ashore to hunt, the dangers of crossing roads are probably not high in its thoughts. When doing this otters often move very quickly, leaving little time for anybody to see them enter the roadway.
The same can be said for drivers who, focussed on where they are going and what they have to do when they get there, awareness of the risks of a wild animal appearing in the middle of the road may not be at the top of the list.
There is no easy answer.