Predation on adult Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., by otters, Lutra lutra (L.), within the River Dee system, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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Abstract

Predation on adult salmon, Salmo salur L., by otters, Lurra lutra (L.), varied seasonally on the R. Dee, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, being highest during the spawning season in winter. Predation is described for some tributaries of the river. Male fish were caught by otters more often than females, and it is suggested that they were most vulnerable during their extensive excursions up and down stream, particularly as they negotiated shallow riffles. Otters appeared to prey upon healthy fish rather than those infested with Saprolegnia sp. but there was no difference in the size, freshwater- or sea-age offish killed by otterscompared with ‘kelts’ which had died non-violently. At least some of the otters obtained most of their daily food requirements by catching a single salmon per night.

Considerable numbers of adult salmon may be killed by otters during the spawning period but it is suggested that, because most are males, this is unlikely to affect the breeding success of the salmon population. Most predation occurs outside the fishing season and so is unlikely to reduce the numbers of salmon caught by anglers.

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