Conservation students construct otter holt

March 2014

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

A group of Conservation degree students have constructed an otter holt next to the River Can on the Writtle College estate.

Otters are present at the site but their natural holts are in tree root systems close to the river edge. With the recent flooding, these natural holts are unavailable so the students have created an artificial holt above the level of the water to offer them more habitats.

The six second year students created the artificial holt yesterday (19 March) out of timber from the College’s own plantations, after the trees were cut down as part of felling practice, so the project could be as sustainable as possible.

The design and construction was led by Will Dexter and Katy Froud with fellow students Tom Phillips, Matthew King, Darren Bonner and Jenny Cox, as well as Conservation Lecturer Alan Roscoe, part of the working group.

Will, from Chelmsford, said: “This has given us valuable insight into how to design and build an artificial otter holt as well as project management experience, including completing risk assessments and coordinating volunteers. We intend to set up a remote field camera so we can capture the movement of the animals in and out of the holt – we’re hoping a family of otters will be attracted to the site.”

Katy, from Witham, added: “We have designed the structure so it has two entrances in case of predation, so they can escape through one, and to prevent a draft going through. We have used stakes to create three chambers and then covered the structure in mud and brash. Everything is made of natural materials so it will blend into the surroundings.”

Conservation lecturer Alan Roscoe said: “This is being managed by Katy and Will so it is entirely student-led. Tasks like this give students the opportunity to put conservation measures in place on the College estate as well as experience of a conservation project and of leading work groups, which is vital for their CVs.”

• For more information on the BSc (Hons) Conservation and Environment at Writtle College, please call 01245 424200.