Ottertalk, Coots, midges and Piper at the well, Fri 6-Fri 13.05.2022

Wednesday in the Glen Resource Centre a gathering of otter enthusiasts heard Paddy Sleeman share his knowledge and answer questions about Cork’s urban otter population, 11 have been counted by the disitillary and 8 on the Bride – they have always been here he insists, across Cork’s rivers in abundance. Their white markings may be an indication of close living with humans, not exactly domestication… but.. and these markings make individuals identifiable and trackable. Adult males can be 18 kilos and a force to be reckoned with, females are up to 8k .. they usually give birth to 2 in a litter, sometimes 3, but often all but one are abandoned… harsh living and feral survival. Otters have been hunted in Cork for centuries, their fur so prized that ground rent used to be annually 2 pelts, valuable for their heavy wear and waterproofing. We saw a photo of a Bride otter with his neck hair up like a lion, this mobility on the scruff is there for the mother to catch hold of, and once grasped in her jaws the kit’s body goes limp, and this hair behaviour remains into adulthood – I think of feline Mixa and her mobile neck flesh. We heard of Bride otters crossing the road into the Glen by the fire station, and so during lockdown there were multiple sitings of families in the park, at this time the road was quiet and they were able to access the Glen river for fish, the trout were plentiful too then – i’m remembering the strange sites of last year, fish with roe dead on the grass. Otters have a way of corralling fish Sleemann says they are gatherers more than hunters, herding and eating small fry in river pools. Otters are plentiful in Cork but mink are too. and it’s the mink who are responsible for the decimation of the coot population in the Glen of recent years. The BEES dept have been tracking otters by spraint and analysing DNA this way but would prefer hairs, thye want to find how the envrionment and pollutants are afecting them, as their populations are still strong but in one female they’ve found an idiosyncracy on the DNA x chromosome …. from pharamaceutical polutants… this may lead to less fruitful breeding patterns down the line as has occurred in the UK ..they are also looking for the presence, and effects of microplastics, and other human waste. So they aim to put up sticky patches (somebody fro the audience suggested velcro) on known ‘otter slides’ into the river to get hairs for more accurate readings.

Published by @julforres

Julie Forrester, artist based in Cork City Ireland

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