Ot­ter-ly won­der­ful en­counter

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Your Feedback - Bar­bara Mac­far­lane, via email

I am a habi­tat sur­veyor for pro­tected species and en­joy watch­ing ot­ters in my spare time but this en­counter was par­tic­u­larly spe­cial. I had been told that a cub had been hang­ing around a se­cret lo­ca­tion in Scot­land for a few weeks with no sign of a mother or sib­lings so I went to see how it was get­ting on.

As soon as I sat down on the sea wall, the young­ster emerged car­ry­ing a crab and ap­proached where I was sit­ting. The crus­tacean’s claw was still at­tached to the ot­ter’s paw, and the mustelid was eye­ing it sus­pi­ciously.

Wary of an­other crab at­tack, the cub aban­doned its prey and went off in search of an­other meal. In all, the ot­ter hunted and ate 10 crabs just a few me­tres from me be­fore drink­ing some fresh wa­ter from a cul­vert and head­ing off for a snooze in the bracken.

I have been back sev­eral times to mon­i­tor its progress and it is catch­ing fish as well as crabs and gain­ing lots of weight, so I am re­as­sured that it has a great chance of sur­vival.

The coastal ot­ters here can be quite bold and sight­ings of them are fre­quent, but it’s al­ways a bit con­cern­ing when ot­ters come into such close con­tact with peo­ple. How­ever, from my pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of ob­serv­ing them, this prox­im­ity is some­thing which lessens as they get older (and wiser?) and ven­ture fur­ther for prey in their ter­ri­tory.

Bar­bara watched this young ot­ter hunt and eat 10 crabs from a sea wall in Scot­land.

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