On Thursday an otter pup was found on the side of the road by Clachtoll beach in Sutherland. After observing to see if a parent was nearby, Lochinver resident Clarinda Chant picked up the animal and took it to her home. After consulting with the local Highland Ranger Andy Summers, they contacted International Otter Survival Fund on Skye to seek advice. It was decided that the pup required help and a relay was set up with Noel Hawkins from British Divers Marine Life Rescue based in Ullapool who transported the young otter to Achnasheen volunteer Jackie West who then took it to Skye.
As the pup settled in news of a second pup came in in the same vicinity as the first and it is now being transported to Skye to join its sibling. With no sightings of the parent, it is assumed it has died or been killed and the pups would not have survived on their own. It is hoped that both pups will be OK, and with time and help, can be reared and returned to the wild. The first otter was named Ermintrude by Clarinda – though the sex is not yet known so this may have to be Ernie in future. The second pup has been named Jenson.
IOSF have been doing otter rehab for nearly 30 years now – having their first otter in 1998 – a road casualty in Broadford. Over the years they have treated over 200, the most in one year was 17 but in general they get about 6-8 a year. So in 2016 they have had 5.
Cubs stay with their mums until they are 12-15 months so it is a long-term commitment. All are released back to the wild, so human contact to a minimum. They may look very cute but do bite and you cannot release an otter which is tame. This is why IOSF do not have visitors to see them.
When they are small they are on milk substitute – otters can’t take lactose so require a special milk from America – the same used for seal pups.
Not only do IOSF care for Scottish otters here but they are contacted by people from all over the world – so far they have helped people in 32 countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chile, Thailand, Nigeria, Canada, Philippines, Ireland and Portugal. In total they have assisted with 12 of the 13 species of otter found in the world, though Monterey Aquarium is the recognised expert on sea otters so they are best to give advice on that species.
You can find out more about IOSF, follow how ‘Ermintrude/Ernie’ and ‘Jenson’ get on, and even adopt an otter and help support them at http://www.otter.org
Courtesy: Noel Hawkins, text and pictures