Traditionally, otters are thought to be crepuscular – a term that describes animals that are mostly active in twilight (around dawn and dusk). This is certainly the case with Bruce and Haplo, the two otters fitted with VHF transmitters as part of a PhD study investigating the spatial ecology and health of otters in the Cape Peninsula.
Both otters are large males from the Silvermine Wetland area of the Peninsula and in the last 7-9 months of monitoring these two, they appear to have similar times of activity, yet very different habitat preferences. Bruce - fitted with a VHF transmitter in July last year - exhibits crepuscular behavior and forages for large fish mostly in freshwater vleis and lakes such as Wildevoelvlei and Lake Michelle. He has a small core home range; yet will occasionally undertake a 20km journey only to return a few weeks later. Haplo on the other hand (fitted with a VHF transmitter in September last year), appears to prefer the marine environment and for the seven months researchers have been monitoring him, he has stayed close to the sea and rarely travels further than 500m upriver. Haplo appears to be active mostly only at night time and in the very early morning, venturing out just after sunset to forage for crabs in the rocky shoreline between Clovelly and Simonstown, sometimes travelling 12km in just one night. In the daytime, he remains inactive at some rather unusual sleeping sites, including under the railway line or hidden amongst the bushes at busy beaches.
Much is still to be learnt about the habits and movements of the Peninsula otters but so far we have found them to be versatile, adaptable animals. Roads remain one of their largest threats, and a number of otters have been found killed by cars in the last few years.
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