'I am Wildlife Rescue'. The Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra
It's 5 am, naturally dark, thin slices of precipitation drifting through the air, a cool breeze on our skin. The river is in spate, water flows intrepidly down its course. We're close to the coast, We're Otter spotting. Several evenings before we had heard the audible 'squeaks' of an Otter close by the river bank. We're back to see if this could be the Otters we released back to the wild some weeks before? Torches on we turn to the river bank and walk, listening, scanning the water, still, listening, move on.
The Eurasian Otter, first arrived at the wildlife sanctuary in a bit of a fix. Collided with a vehicle it was found hunkered down at the road side, vocalising pitifully, by a passer by. Thanks to their vigilance we were able to reach the Otter in the nick of time. Otters, particularly the dog Otter, have substantial territories ranging up to 40 square kilometres. Crossing such a sizeable territory - it's impossible for them not to encounter hazards such as road traffic.
Once stabilised, following emergency treatment, our work focused on rehabilitation. A process to prepare the Otter for release back to the wild. Artificial enclosures thoughtfully and generously provide a replica habitat for the Otter to become accustomed to before release back to the wild. With careful management and welfare the Otter ought to display natural behaviour and to have a healthy level of instinct to avoid contact with humans. It is a joy to experience a wild animals return to health. Its independence re-established through months of careful practice.
Otter rehabilitation involves sourcing a safe release site, along with organising a soft release procedure with follow up monitoring. Collaboration with sympathetic landowners and invested supporters is key to the Otters successful release. An Otters presence can cause conflict where fisheries are concerned for example. It is vital that all parties involved have no pre-determined retrospective.
Once established, the soft release site tucked away in a woodland river valley was the Otters sanctuary. Gaining its strength and skills and reconnecting with the natural world over a number of weeks. Soon to realign itself with the wilds. To experience a wild and healthy Otter in its natural environment is a true privilege; observing its prowess and extraordinary capabilities as it explores its release enclosure, alerted by new noise, scent and activity up to its release day.
A rehabilitated Otter would be vocal - hissing and growling as its release is organised swiftly and efficiently. Perhaps an Otter Hi- five would be on the cards as it sprints toward the open space in the enclosure? Not even a wink since the Otter has been scenting the wilds for the last few weeks. It's gone! The ultimate result for the wildlife team!
We picked up the vocals of the Otter a little distance further up river, still our senses quering the range of noises stirring on the breeze. The boughs of branches rubbing against one another? No. The pitch is different and it's moving along. We followed the vocals until the river turned away from us and we could continue to pick it up. That was the last time we heard the Otter on this occasion as we concluded our search down river. Suspecting that this Otter retreated to cover as the civil dawn greeted our chilled, contented thoughts.
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