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Otter holt built on Scholar’s Piece

An artificial holt has been constructed on Scholars’ Piece to provide a bankside habitat for otters.
Ecologist Cliff Carson digging the holt with volunteers from the College. Photo: Lloyd Mann

An artificial holt has been constructed on Scholars’ Piece to provide a bankside habitat for otters in the River Cam. The holt, built from recycled materials and with the help of local ecologist Cliff Carson, is expected to last for many decades and offer a secure place for otters to ‘lie-up’, especially for young mothers raising their cubs.

A national priority species for conservation, otters have been recorded in a number of locations along the River Cam and Bin Brook, and it’s thought likely that the species uses the area of the river along The Backs for foraging. However, the highly maintained nature of much of the bankside habitats means that a natural otter holt is unlikely to be present, and the species’ population along The Backs may be limited by this lack of holting opportunity.

Although it may take some years for the holt to be used, an infra-red video camera has been installed as part of the project in order to monitor activity and provide valuable information about otter behaviour and distribution across the county.

Research Fellow Cicely Marshall commented:

The Backs location is strategic for otters, providing a stepping stone between the upper and lower reaches of the Cam. Enhancing otter habitat at King’s provides an ecological link between the important habitat at Midsummer Common and Jesus Green to the north and Sheep’s Green and Coe Fen to the south. Being the least disturbed area and benefiting from tree shelter, Scholars’ Piece represents the ideal location for an artificial otter holt along this stretch of the river.


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