Roadsign demand as three otters killed in a week

A RISING death toll of otters on the roads of an island that relies on wildlife tourism has prompted community calls for warning signs.

Four otters were killed on Mulls roads in August alone. Picture: Jonathan Keefe
Four otters were killed on Mulls roads in August alone. Picture: Jonathan Keefe

Mull’s abundant wildlife, which includes eagles, otters and basking sharks, is estimated to bring in around £8 million a year to the island economy.

But Argyll and Bute Council turned down a call for signs to alert motorists of the presence of otters.

Now, after three otters were killed by passing cars in just one week last month, pressure is growing on the council to take action.

Stuart Gibson, spokesman for Mull Otter Group, said the local community, via Mull Community Council, has now paid for a £280 sign to be erected at a black-spot for otter deaths.

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Urging Argyll and Bute Council to follow the community’s lead and put additional signs up throughout the island, Mr Gibson said: “We have been working on a count of one otter death a month for the past 18 months, but it’s really come to a head in the last couple of weeks.

“Within the course of one week, we have had three otters killed and we have had four in total killed in the month of August.

“The wildlife brings people to the island so we think it’s only fair that our local council see that we are indebted to these animals for bringing money to the island’s economy – the least they can do is to do something to protect them.”

He added: “It’s happening in different parts of the island. People are travelling to and from the ferry and the otters are coming to their feeding grounds, which are up from the sea, they have to cross the road and in a split second the traffic is on them.

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“The otters, because of their size, are going to be hit on the side of the head and are dead in a single blow.

“We need to create attention that this is happening because lots of people come to the island of Mull to see wildlife – it is regarded as one of the prime places for wildlife and Mull is now believed to have the highest density of otters in the United Kingdom.

“A white tailed eagle survey estimated that £8 million annually is coming to the Mull economy through wildlife.

“People are flocking to Mull; it is a premier eco-destination because of the accessibility to a whole biodiversity package of things people want to see. They are looking at Mull as an eco-tourism package where they will see eagles, otters and basking sharks.”

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He pointed out that there are otter warning signs in other council areas.

The group has erected the community council’s sign, which meets Argyll and Bute council criteria, on a piece of privately owned land near Fishnish Bay, between Tobermory and Craignure.

A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Council said: “We’re aware that wildlife tourism is very important to the Mull economy.