An Actual Otter

I can't resist reporting my sighting of an actual real otter on Wednesday, my first ever sighting of an otter in the wild. Even though I can't show you a picture of it. I did have a camera on me, but I didn't want any fumbling with the camera to distract me from the fleeting glimpses of the animal.

This picture is a poor substitute, but at least I did take it myself. It was a couple of years ago, at a country wildlife park in South Devon, near Exeter, called Escot if I remember correctly. I don't think these were British otters, but they were probably the first I'd seen close up. This was during their feeding time display, which I'd recommend - they are very entertaining animals, lively and clearly intelligent. Escot is great, by the way; amongst other things they have a maze which I'd have loved to try, except that just as we got there it was taken over by a paintball game.

Anyway, back to Wednesday. I was visiting friends in North Yorkshire, and we went for a walk in Wharfedale. A simple effort, first going higher up to see the limestone pavement, covered in wild flowers at this time of year, then descending and walking back along the stream.

It was somewhere along the stream there.
I can claim the spot: I'd noticed that every so often, there was an orange water container placed next to the fence next to the stream, along with a blue bucket to fetch it up, and I turned my head when I saw another one. I saw the animal under the trees looking down into a rocky section of the stream, and then we all stood and watched. It disappeared between the rocks, and popped up again a couple of minutes later, with a decent sized fish very clearly between its teeth.

That was it. I was chuffed to see it. It's true that the otter population has been recovering, and a place like this is exactly where you'd most expect to see one. But their natural behaviour makes them a little elusive if you're not paying attention. It was a darker animal than I would have assumed, darker than the ones up in that first picture. Nevertheless it was obvious what it was, straightaway, from its size and its environment. And it was doing exactly what you expect otters to do, with that fascinating slippery agility of theirs. Brilliant!


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