26 Apr 2012

A Polecat doing its bit in keeping down the rabbit population

Colin Miles

It was almost two years ago that I first became aware that otters were visiting the stream near the Gatehouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. So I setup a motion-sensitive camera for night-time viewing and waited.  We knew where to place the camera as Otter Spraint, or Otter Poo as I like to call it, had been found on one of the rocks there. And we waited – and waited.

Unfortunately the batteries on the camera don’t last forever and there were times when it wasn’t recording. And Otters have a very wide range – perhaps up to 40 miles – so may only visit very occasionally. The pictures that we did get were of a rabbit, a cat, birds of various kinds and lots of pictures with no discernible wildlife present – a leaf, a moth or something else must have triggered the camera.

But eventually the Otter Poo reappeared and it was photographed, boxed up and duly noted – but still nothing on the camera.  Were they actually visiting during the day unbeknown to us or the visitors?  So I increased the time span. Still nothing so I didn’t have much hope when I recently took the camera back home to view, even though there was evidence of fresh Otter Poo and lots of photos had registered on the camera.

And true to form there were lots of pretty pictures of the stream and the opposite bank, the cat, a rook, ducks, other birds, the people who had photographed the Poo, the occasional visitor who had stepped down to investigate the stream and, suddenly, this picture.  Otter I exclaimed and excitedly sent it off to Bruce Langridge, Interpretation Officer, and later rang our wildlife expert Jan Crowther to tell her the good news – she has been the inspiration behind this.  But then I started to look a bit closer and, as my wife remarked, it’s got a young rabbit. Not exactly Otter food and knowing that there were Mink around and Polecats, I started to search through photos. And when I rang Jan the following morning the first thing she asked was, ‘has it got a face mask’.

So here we have it, a Polecat doing its bit in keeping down the rabbit population – or is it a Frog? Pity about the Otter, but maybe if we are patient a while longer….