Otter survey bill will top €130,000
A NATIONAL census on the country's otter population will cost more than €130,000.
Belfast-based Quercus Consultants -- which also scooped the contract for an infamous national frog survey -- will get €129,981 plus VAT for the work to develop and manage the otter survey.
The state has commissioned the work in response to a European Court of Justice judgment that it is failing to adequately protect the mammal.
Earlier this year, the Department of Environment signed a contract with a Cork-based consultancy firm for a two-year study of the natterjack toad population.
And now the study into otters - which includes details of their population and diet patterns - is under way.
Quercus, which is based at Queen's University, is expected to conclude the study in March.
The otter has an unfavourable conservation status in Ireland as a result of a decline in its population since the 1980s. It is protected by the EU Habitats Directive and any one found guilty of killing one faces fines of up to €63,487 or two years' imprisonment.
The Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht revealed the price of the contract in response to a Freedom of Information request.