Mammal Research

, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 217–231 | Cite as

Fish selection by riverine Eurasian otters in lowland England

Original Paper

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.

Keywords

Otters Fisheries Predation Fish prey selection Human-wildlife conflict Spraint analysis 

References

  1. Adamek Z, Kortan D, Lepic P, Andreji J (2003) Impacts of otter (Lutra lutra L.) predation on fish ponds: a study of fish remains at ponds in the Czech Republic. Aquac Int 11:389–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adrian MI, Delibes M (1987) Food habits of the otter (Lutra lutra) in two habitats of the Doñana National Park, SW Spain. J Zool 212:399–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Almeida D, Copp GH, Masson L, Miranda R, Murai M, Sayer CD (2012) Changes in the diet of a recovering Eurasian otter population between the 1970s and 2010. Aquat Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst 22:26–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baltrūnaitė L (2009) Diet of otters in fish farms in Lithuania. Acta Zool Lituanica 19:182–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beaumont WRC, Taylor AAL, Lee MJ, Welton JS (2002) Guidelines for electric fishing best practice, R&D Technical Report W2. Environment Agency, SwindonGoogle Scholar
  6. Britton JR, Shepherd JS (2005) Biometric data for the diet reconstruction of piscivorous fauna. Folia Zool 54:193–200Google Scholar
  7. Britton JR, Shepherd JS, Toms S, Simpson D (2005) Presence of carp Cyprinus carpio in the diet of the otter, Lutra lutra. Fish Manag Ecol 12:221–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Britton JR, Pegg J, Shepherd JS, Toms S (2006) Revealing the prey items of the otter Lutra lutra in South West England using stomach contents analysis. Folia Zool 55:167–174Google Scholar
  9. Bubb DH, Lucas MC, Thom TJ (2002) Winter movements and activity of signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus in an upland river, determined by radio telemetry. Hydrobiologia 483:111–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carss D (1995) Foraging behaviour and feeding ecology of the otter Lutra lutra: a selective review. Hystrix Ital J Mammal 7:179–194Google Scholar
  11. Carss DN, Nelson KC (1998) Cyprinid remains in otter Lutra lutra faeces: some words of caution. J Zool 245:238–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carss DN, Parkinson SG (1996) Errors associated with otter Lutra lutra faecal analysis I. Assessing general diet from spraints. J Zool 238:301–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carss DN, Kruuk H, Conroy WH (1990) Predation on adult Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L., by otters Lutra lutra (L.) within the River Dee System, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. J Fish Biol 37:935–944CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carss DN, Elston DA, Morley HS (1998) The effects of otter (Lutra lutra) activity of spraint production and composition: implications for models which estimate prey-size distribution. J Zool 244:295–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chanin P (2003) Ecology of the European Otter. Conserving natura 2000 Rivers ecology Series No. 10. English Nature, PeterboroughGoogle Scholar
  16. Clavero M, Prenda J, Delibes M (2003) Trophic diversity of the otter (Lutra lutra) in temperate and Mediterranean freshwater habitats. J Biogeogr 30:761–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Conroy JHW, Watt J, Webb JB, Jones A (2005) A guide to the identification of prey remains in otter spraint. The Mammal Society, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Copp GH, Roche K (2003) Range and diet of Eurasian otters Lutra lutra (L.) in the catchment of the River Lee (south-east England) since re-introduction. Aquat Conserv Mar Freshw Ecosyst 13:65–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cote D, Stewart HMJ, Gregory RS, Gosse J, Reynolds JJ, Stenson GB, Miller EH (2008) Prey selection by marine-coastal river otters (Lontra canadensis) in Newfoundland, Canada. J Mammal 89:1001–1011CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Crawford A (2010) Fifth otter survey of England. Environment Agency, BristolGoogle Scholar
  21. Day MG (1966) Identification of hair and feather remains in the gut and faeces of stoats and weasels. J Zool 148:201–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Erlinge S (1968) Food studies on captive otters Lutra lutra L. Oikos 19:259–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Erlinge S (1969) Food habits of the otter Lutra lutra L. and the mink Mustela vison Schreber in a trout water in southern Sweden. Oikos 20:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. García-Díaz P, Ayres C (2010) The role of common toads in the winter diet of recolonising Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra). Hystrix Ital J Mammal 21:199–202Google Scholar
  25. Geidezis L (1999) Food selection of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) in a fish pond area. PhD Thesis, University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Oldenburg, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  26. Harrington LA, Macdonald DW (2015) Riparian mustelids in the Upper Thames: a case of alien invasives versus native competitors. In: Macdonald DW, Feber R (eds) Wildlife conservation on farmland. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  27. Harrington LA, Harrington AL, Macdonald DW (2008) Estimating the relative abundance of American mink Mustela vison on lowland rivers: evaluation and comparison of two techniques. Eur J Wildl Res 54:79–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harvey GL, Henshaw AJ, Moorhouse TP, Clifford NJ, Holah H, Grey J, Macdonald DW (2014) Invasive crayfish as drivers of fine sediment dynamics in rivers: field and laboratory evidence. Earth Surf Proc Land 39:259–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heggberget TM (1993) Marine-feeding otters (Lutra lutra) in Norway: seasonal variation in prey and reproductive timing. J Mar Biol 73:297–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Heggberget TM, Moseid KE (1994) Prey selection in coastal Eurasian otters Lutra lutra. Ecography 17:331–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hillson S (1986) Teeth. Cambridge manuals in archaeology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Jedrzejewska B, Sidorovich VE, Pikulik MM, Jedrzejewska W (2001) Feeding habits of the otter and the American mink in Bialowieza Primeval Forest (Poland), compared to other Eurasian populations. Ecography 24:165–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Klenke RA, Ring I, Kranz A, Jepsen N, Rauschmayer F, Henle K (2013) Human-wildlife conflicts in Europe. Fisheries and fish-eating vertebrates as a model case. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kortan D, Adámek Z, Poláková S (2007) Winter predation by otter, Lutra lutra on carp pond systems in South Bohemia (Czech Republic). Folia Zool 56:416–428Google Scholar
  35. Krebs CJ (1999) Ecological methodology, 2nd edn. Addison-Wesley Longman IncGoogle Scholar
  36. Kruuk H (2006) Otters. Ecology, behaviour and conservation. OUP, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  37. Lanski J, Sallai Z (2006) Comparison of the feeding habits of Eurasian otters on a fast flowing river and its backwater habitats. Mamm Biol 71:336–346Google Scholar
  38. Lanszki J, Körmendi S, Hancz C, Martin TG (2001) Examination of some factors affecting selection of fish prey by otters (Lutra lutra) living by eutrophic fish ponds. J Zool 255:97–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Macdonald S, Mason C (1990) Action plan for European otters. In: Foster-Turley P, Macdonald S, Mason C (eds.) Otters. An action plan for their conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/edocs/1990-009.pdf Accessed January 2014
  40. Maitland PS, Linsell K (2006) Guide to freshwater fish of Britain and Europe. Octopus Publishing Group Ltd, LondonGoogle Scholar
  41. Marques C, Rosalino LM, Santos-Reis M (2007) Otter predation in a trout fish farm of central-east Portugal: preference for fast food? River Res Appl 23:1147–1153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Miranda R, Escala C (2007) On the use of cyprinid scales in the diet analysis of piscivorous species: how much information is hidden in a fish scale? Trans Am Fish Soc 136:1008–1017CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Miranda R, Copp GH, Williams J, Beyer K, Gozlan RE (2008) Do Eurasian otters Lutra lutra (L.) in the Somerset Levels prey preferentially on non-native fish species? Fundam Appl Limnol 172:339–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Novais A, Sedlmayr A, Moreira-Santos M, Goncalves F, Ribeiro R (2010) Diet of the otter Lutra lutra in an almost pristine Portuguese river: seasonality and analysis of fish prey through scale and vertebrae keys and length relationships. Mammalia 74:71–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. O’Sullivan WM (1994) Summer diet of otters on part of the river Blackwater catchment. Irish Nat J 24:349–354Google Scholar
  46. Pagacz S, Witczuk J (2010) Intensive exploitation of amphibians by Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) in the Wolosaty stream, Southeastern Poland. Acta Zool Fenn 47:403–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Radford A, Riddington G, Gibson H (2007) Economic evaluation of inland fisheries: the economic impact of freshwater angling in England and Wales. Environment Agency, BristolGoogle Scholar
  48. Reid N, Thompson D, Hayden B, Marnell F, Montgomery WI (2013) Review and quantitative meta-analysis of diet suggests the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is likely to be a poor indicator. Ind Ecol 26:5–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Remonti L, Prigioni C, Balestrieri A, Sgrosso S, Priore G (2010) Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) prey selection in response to a variation of fish abundance. Ital J Zool 77:331–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Reynolds JC, Aebischer NJ (1991) Comparison and quantification of carnivore diet by faecal analysis: a critique, with recommendations based on a study of the fox (Vulpes vulpes). Mamm Rev 21:97–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Román J (2011) What do otters eat where there is no fish? Mamm Biol 76:237–239Google Scholar
  52. Ruff KA (2007) Nutritional and energetic studies on captive Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra). PhD thesis, University of Hanover, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  53. Ruiz-Olmo J, Palazón S (1997) The diet of the European otter (Lutra lutra L., 1758) in Mediterranean freshwater habitats. J Wildl Res 2:171–181Google Scholar
  54. Ruiz-Olmo J, López-Martín JM, Palazón S (2001) The influence of fish abundance on the otter (Lutra lutra) populations in Iberian Mediterranean habitats. J Zool 254:325–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Scholey G (2012) Otters and fisheries in the UK: Issues, Conficts and the Way Forward. In: Jupp S, Wright L, Yoxon G (eds) International Otter Survival Fund Otters and Fisheries Conference Report. 7th November 2012, Edinburgh. http://www.otter.org/research.aspx Accessed 29 July 2014
  56. Stearns CR, Serfass TL (2011) Food habits and fish prey size selection of a newly colonising population of river otters (Lontra canadensis) in Eastern North Dakota. Am Midl Nat 165:169–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Taastrøm HM, Jacobsen L (1999) The diet of otter (Lutra lutra) in Danish freshwater habitats: comparisons of prey fish populations. J Zool 248:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Teerink BJ (1991) Hair of west European mammals. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  59. Treves A, Karanth KU (2003) Human-carnivore conflict and perspectives on carnivore management worldwide. Conserv Biol 17:1491–1499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tudorache C, Viaene P, Blust R, Vereecken H, De Boeck G (2008) A comparison of swimming capacity and energy use in seven European freshwater fish species. Ecol Freshw Fish 17:284–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wardle CS (1980) Effects of temperature on the maximum swimming speed of fishes. In: Ali MA (ed) Freshwater fishes of the north-eastern United States. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York, pp 519–533Google Scholar
  62. Weber JM (1990) Seasonal exploitation of amphibians by otters (Lutra lutra) in north-east Scotland. J Zool 220:641–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wise MH, Linn IJ, Kennedy CR (1981) A comparison of the feeding biology of mink Mustela vison and otter Lutra lutra. J Zool 195:181–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wright BE (2010) Use of chi‐square tests to analyze scat‐derived diet composition data. Mar Mammal Sci 26:395–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lady Margaret HallUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordAbingdonUK
  3. 3.Biological Form and Function Group, Institute of Molecular Plant SciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations