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How to build an otter holt

29 September 2011 | Posted in Community , Gatwick Greenspace , Volunteering

Author Kevin Lerwill

otter / Stephen Bray
otter / Stephen Bray

One of the best things about a project like Gatwick Greenspace

is being able to work in such a large project area with enthusiastic volunteers. Recently, I have been working with volunteers from British Airways Engineering to install two recycled plastic otter holts on the River Mole by Gatwick Airport. Chris Matcham from Surrey Wildlife Trust, installed two holts nearby back in 1999, although these are now occupied by mink we hope that when otters eventually find their own way into the River Mole, they will drive the mink out. Until then, Chris and myself decided that it would be a good idea to increase the number of suitable habitats for the otters, in anticipation of their return!

British Airways kindly paid for the materials from FILCRIS Ltd, authorisation was obtained from the airport and the Environment Agency and we met on a warm and sunny day in mid-September to install them. The kits come in a flat-pack, but it didn't take long for a group of engineers to work out which bit went where. Once the holts were assembled with screws, we then attached the sections of tubing which provide the entrance and exits and then we began to dig a hole big enough for the completed structure. I had been warned that it might be hard digging because of the compacted mudstone on the opposite bank of the river, but I needn't had worried, as the bank we were on was just thick clay and was soft enough for us to dig quite easily.

Once the holt had been flipped over and fitted to the hole, we then had to drive the stakes attached to the holt into the ground so that there were no gaps between the internal sections. This was slightly trickier than we had expected as one end would lift up as the other end was being hammered into the ground, but we got there eventually. All we had to do then was backfill the gaps around the edge and cover the roof section, ensuring we had left the air spaces clear for ventilation. As this part of the river floods quite regularly, we decided to site the second holt further up the bank, slightly away from the river, but still close enough to be useful for our potential residents... fingers crossed that the otters find them soon!

[popup url="/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/otter_ll.htm"]Link to a Living Landscape[/popup]

Flat-pack otter holt

Digging in

The team

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