Storm returns to Assynt

September 24th 2022

Storm returns to Assynt

October 2021 delivered some periods of heavy rain to Assynt causing lochs to fill rapidly and streams to become torrents.

During one of these events Angi Kneebone from Balchladich was convinced she could hear a light ‘squeaking’ coming from the stream that flows past her house. Two days later she discovered the source; a very young Otter was sheltering in the tall grasses at the edge of the stream. (photo 1. Angi Kneebone)

Angi enlisted the help of her partner, Mark. He held the animal cage, Angi wore big gauntlets, and before the otter knew what was happening it was in the cage. Some hissing ensued, apparently.

International Rescue

Contact was made with the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) who are based on the Isle of Skye and ‘Storm’ was safely taken into their care. Storm! – what else could they christen him, this tiny male otter?

The thinking was that the heavy rainfall and swollen water bodies had caused this young otter to become separated from its family group.

After almost 11 months of feeding, and growing on Skye it was time for Grace and Paul Yoxon at IOSF to arrange Storm’s release back to the wild. (photos 2.and 3. IOSF) They said later that Storm had been digging in his enclosure for several weeks so they knew he was ready to leave.

After a few conversations with Andy Summers, Senior Countryside Ranger with Highlife Highland a suitably remote and quiet Assynt location was decided upon.

22nd September was the selected release date with Grace and Paul hoping to arrive at midday. The determining factor was how willing Storm would be to go into his crate for the journey. No problem, they all arrived at the agreed time.

Return to the Wild

A muddy walk to the release point and Storm, still in his crate, was placed at the water’s edge. The door was opened and everyone stood excitedly waiting for the moment Storm took to the water. We were still waiting 10 minutes later! (photos 4. and 5. Andy Summers)

In the end Paul had to slightly lift the crate to coax Storm out. Then, in an instant he was out of the crate and in the water. Suddenly he was freely swimming and foraging for food in the seaweed.

He surfaced a few times to check out his new surroundings, and without a doubt us too! Another dive and he next surfaced about 50m away still working the edge of the seaweed. (photos 6. to 11. David Haines)

So, Storm returns to Assynt and there is now no more that can be done for him. But, thanks to Angie and the IOSF he has at least been given a second chance.

We only have one species of Otter across Europe; the Eurasian Otter, Lutra lutra and its conservation status is ‘Near Threatened’ (IUCN 2014).

Assynt does have a reasonable number of Otters, however that doesn’t mean they are easy to spot. Otters are all around our coast and a good time to look for them is on a low but rising tide. They can search all the rock pools for fish etc. waiting on the tide to come back up.

For lots more information about the Eurasian Otter and other Otter species globally please check the IOSF website. They have a brilliant online shop and a simple donate/adopt an otter page too!


David Haines

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