Dietary specifications reflect the feeding behaviour of the European otter (Lutra lutra) in “Strandzha” Natural Park (Bulgaria)

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Abstract

Within the scope of the present study a field survey in the area of “Strandzha” Natural Park in south-east Bulgaria was carried out. The main goal of the investigation was to gain more detailed information on the diet of the European otters (Lutra lutra) that inhabit the park. As indicators for the presence of the mustelids a set of standard procedures, such as footprints tracking and inspecting the terrain for otter spraints were used. A total of 204 excrements were found, measured, documented and then disintegrated in water. The food rests in the faeces were investigated and the diet of the local population was documented. On the base of the results we separated the excrements into six groups and analysed the relations between the contents of the spraints and the characteristics of the habitat where they were found. We discovered a clear tendency toward piscivory in the middle and down streams of the studied rivers in the Natural Park. In the upper streams, otters relied almost exclusively on invertebrates like bivalves and crayfish as food source. The fact, that even suboptimal habitats, which offered invariable menu, were exploited by the otters is an indication for the stability of the local population.

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