Sunday, 16 March 2008
It's Sunday afternoon and all three of us are lying around doing very little. Chris is on the sofa watching Watership Down with a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits, I'll be joining him after writing this, and Fox is stretched out in front of the fire. We're all absolutely shattered because of a certain little visitor!
On Friday afternoon, just when I was looking forward to switching off for the weekend, I got a call from my boss asking me to give advice to someone who had found a baby otter on the banks of Crummock Water. The poor little wretch had been wandering around for over three hours screaming her head off for a mother who never returned. After that length of time, I knew that she really had been abandoned and asked for her to be brought in to me.
Chris and I are no strangers to hand rearing wild animals, we're sensible about it though and only keep something going if we think that there is a genuine hope that it will be fit to return to the wild. You won't find any one legged Blackbirds or one eyed Tawny Owls in our back garden!
When Otto arrived she was quite dehydrated but in surprisingly good nick. I guessed she was about 6 weeks old so not ready to be out and about yet. We got fluids into her but she spent a good chunk of her time still screaming for Mum. I slept on the sofa with her to keep her warm and give the contact of another living thing that she needed. I've had about 1.5 hours of sleep in the last two nights and have raided our neighbours' freezers for trout, which she devoured happily.
Every time she cried, Fox would jump up to check she was ok. He was amazingly gentle with her and, although I'd never have left them alone together, clearly meant her no harm and was simply baffled by the sudden appearance of this noisy little creature.
My friend and otter expert John McMinn came up to see her, give extra advice and discuss our plan of action. We agreed to transfer her to the care of Paul and Grace Yoxon who run the International Otter Survival Fund and have taken otters from John and I before, so this morning I drove to Gretna Green to hand her over to Colin Seddon, an SSPCA officer who would then relay her up to IOSF on Skye.
It is always rewarding looking after a baby animal but I always suspect that anyone who says "oh how on earth could you let her go" must not have reared many wild animals! They are hard work and I always think of them as being wild and never "mine." She will be much happier playing with other otter cubs at IOSF and has the best chance possible of staying wild enough to release.