19 September 2018
As a semi-aquatic mammal, the otter is one of the emblems of the Marais poitevin. Just a few lucky people can catch a glimpse of this animal. To better know the otter and recognise the traces of its passage, we followed an expert during a ride on the water organised by the Aunis Marais poitevin Tourism Office.
The otter, so discreet
It is 6pm at the jetty of Écluses de Bazoin in La Ronde. The sun is still shining mystically bright on this marsh which is so wild and yet quiet. Our one-night guide, Julien, explains the program of the night and the activity. He is a naturalist and lover of the Marsh, but also and most importantly an otter researcher. But tonight, the star of the night uses to be discreet. Only a few are able to get close to it. Julien even admits he has seen the otter only eight times. In other words, observing a real otter will be more like a miracle! Not surprising when you consider that only a hundred of otters are living in the entire Marais poitevin Regional Natural Park.
An otter, emblematic animal of the Marais poitevin.
The first part of the activity is thus dedicated to the presentation of the otter and its habits (diet, habitat, breeding, etc.) As a shy animal, the otter prefers to stay away. It is therefore important to learn how to recognise the evidences of its presence. Pellets, leftovers or even footprints: numerous possible indications of its presence that need to be found!
On the lookout for marks left by the otter
Now let’s put things into practice. Some ten people jump into the boat. Julien, who has been working as a boatman since he was 14, knows every aspect of the “pigouille” pole. He guides us to the shore while giving us explanations, looking for any trace of life and passage of the otter of the Marais poitevin. The first clue quickly appear. Under one of those pontoons, usually on the highest point, lies a magnificent otter pellet, easily recognisable thanks to its shape (slightly pinkish because of its love for crawfish) and its particular smell of honey (surprising yet true!).
Across the water, the Marsh is getting wilder and wilder but still quiet, only to be disturbed by our presence. In the absence of the otter, the recent marks of the passage of an otter prove that it uses to live here. That is the meaning of the activity “Following the otter”: how to notice and interpret the clues before us.
Even if we didn’t get a chance to observe one otter, we now know how to look for the animal on our own. As for the other discoveries of the trip, it’s up to you to find them.
An otter in the Marais poitevin regional natural park from Parc Marais poitevin on Vimeo.
Other activities are available in the Marais poitevin. Don’t hesitate to get information about them and don’t forget to book.