Yes it’s true. There is an otter on Kinghorn Loch! It’s still here and busy leaving prints and spraint on and around the two mammal rafts we have out on the loch to monitor mammal activity. From a biodiversity point of view, this is excellent news. Otters are charismatic top predators, and the way ecological principles work, this means top predators = a healthy and well balanced environment and species diversity. This is why otters are known as ‘keystone species’; if otters hang around a place they like it because the food is good, the habitats to hide in are favourable and they are not distressed by human disturbance.
Fishermen will be up in arms because – fish are their favourite dinner (well fish and eel!). The number of cormorants we have recently had plus the otter’s presence indicates fish are active. Word on ‘Wildlife Street’ is that fishing is good at Kinghorn. Fishermen will be pleased to know that the otter probably won’t stay around for long, it won’t set up home here or start to breed. The area is too small to support a permanent family of otters (more’s the pity).
Otters are solitary, nocturnal, semi-aquatic mammals that occupy very large home ranges (32km for males, 20km for females). This otter is passing through, and just hanging out till it’s ready to move on (not quick enough I hear the fishermen shout!).
Yes, it eats other things too – frogs, toads, small ducks and young wildfowl because it’s an opportunistic feeder. This means it will eat whatever is in abundance and in this case its fish.
As it’s not breeding season, wildfowl are (relatively) safe. According to Scottish Natural Heritage opportunistic feeding is good because it means ….” there no evidence to suggest that they are having a detrimental effect on the overall population ….” of wildlife on freshwater lochs. If you are interested in more details about this mustalid (the family name that also applies to Pine Marten, Polecates, Mink, Weasels, Badgers and Stoats).
SNH website gives a good account of otter ecology (http://www.snh.gov.uk/about-scotlands-nature/species/mammals/land-mammals/otters/) as does The Environmental Agency of its biology (http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/Business/Otters_the_facts.pdf)