I recently spent a wonderful week on the southern part of the Island of Mull with my daughter and her partner who is an RSPB warden and has an incredible knowledge of birds. We stayed in a lovely cottage with views across the sea to Staffa, Colinsay and Dutchmans Cap etc. The week was full of great wildlife sightings including 20 plus sightings of hen harriers, 14 golden eagles and 17 sea eagles, plus a wonderful view of a snipe drumming tail feathers extended to create that amazingly evocative humming sound.
We didnt see many otters apart from one amazing view of a mother and older cub playing together on the rocks about 20 metres away. However one cold damp morning we decided to go down to the local beach for a morning dog walk and just inside a gate we found to our dismay a perfectly formed but lifeless baby otter. As we looked on sadly I noticed the minutist twitch of one of the half opened eyes. I picked the cub up and cuddled it inside my coat to try and warm it up – no response at all. Meanwhile we had met some locals who invited us into their home and spent the next half hour trying to contact someone from the Mull Otter Group but to no avail. Eventually the local wildlife crime officer supplied them with a mobile number and soon our otter rescue lady was rushing over from Tobermory with a supply of bright pink rehydrate solution.
We could now see that the cub was breathing more deeply and after two syringes of rehydrate which she swallowed she started to open her eyes and look more alert, but still there was absolutely no movement in her floppy limbs. She was bundled into a cat crate and disappeared off in the car and that was the last we saw of her.
However two days later I received an email from the lady with the wonderful news that Gribun our cub was doing very well indeed and was soon to be sent off to the SSPCA who had another little 13 week old cub who needed a friend. This week came more good news, that the cub has settled happily with her playmate, after a bit of grumpiness, and they are both doing well. They will be kept together at the centre with minimal human contact for a year, after which they will be released into the wild.
Apparently otter mums bear their cubs in holts that are up to three miles inland and at about 7 weeks of age they move them to a holt nearer the sea. Maybe this little cub got separated from her mum on this journey and became dangerously weak and dehydrated.
We feel incredibly privileged to have been involved in the rescue of such an exquisite creature and to have held her little furry body and examined her leathery black paws and needle sharp teeth – wow!! It’s so good that it had a happy ending as well, although she would have been better off gambolling in the loch with her mum like the other cub we had seen earlier in the week.
Ps Apparently the otter cub who was rescued after the floods in MK recently ended up in Tiggywinkles rescue centre and it is also going to be sent up to Scotland for release, as there are more suitable habitats for it up there. So a happy ending for both orphans!!
The article and photos were kindly supplied by Julie Lane