Broadford man, Joe Burke sustained a bite to his hand and had several lucky escapes from the jaws of a feisty otter who wasn’t afraid to chase off the six foot farmer, as a rescue attempt turned nasty in Tulla this week.
Mr Burke and Mike Hogan couldn’t believe their eyes on Monday morning when they spotted an otter scamper past the gate of Littletons in the heart of the village. Little did they know that this cute looking creature had a mean streak.
“I was in Littletons on Monday and Mike Hogan was getting me diesel and he just said ‘is that an otter after passing the gate?’ It was in full flight, and I said sure we’ll have a look. As it happened it was an otter. I would be fairly well up on wildlife and I’m involved in animal rescue myself. He went in under a gate beside the courthouse into a courtyard and I said to Mike ‘we better secure him’ because if went off down the road he would have had a chance of being run over. So we got three pallets and secured him in the courtyard. We were watching him and thought we better phone animal rescue because he looked dehydrated,” Joe said.
The otter appeared to have strayed a mile and a half from water and speculations are that he may have been followed by dogs or some other predator.
“He was very distressed and he was very aggressive. In the meantime, while he was in the courtyard he put his head into a Tayto bag and he was smothering and choking himself, so this was becoming an emergency. I said to Mike ‘have you any canvass bag?’ so we got one of those. I’m not afraid of animals but everyone else was afraid to go in. He was desperate aggressive. He did try to bite me and he was trying to bite the bag,” Joe said.
“I eventually got him three quarters of the way into the bag and I told Mike we had get him back to water. We proceeded down to a lake but in the meantime, the otter had holed out through the bag and so we kept him in as long as we could but the window at the back of my jeep was broken and he jumped out and ran down the road so the rescue started all over again,” Joe continued.
Left without anything to corner the otter with, to get him off the road and back to his own environment, Joe and Mike had to improvise and so quick thinking came into play. They used a nearby traffic cone and a board to capture it.
“I got in front of him and I managed to stop him on the road. He was very aggressive the whole time. I got the cone down on top of him but he burrowed out of that again. So we got in front of him again, he was still quite aggressive and was trying to bite me. I stopped him and I got the cone out over him and I stood on top of it and Mike got a board to put it underneath it. I got the board under the cone and we tied it in place because he was quite strong and trapped him. I had tape in the jeep and we taped the board to the cone and proceeded to take him to the lake,” Joe explained.
However, the otter remained stubborn and when at the water’s edge, he refused to get out of the cone.
“He was so distressed that when we got him out of the cone, he was going to drown he was so weak and exhausted. So we got him out of the water and got him to a shallow part of the lake and after 10 or 15 minutes he got his breath back and he swam off. Otters are rare enough. to see them, especially during the day, it was most unusual, to see one in the village like that. I have only ever seen one in the wild before. They’re a lovely animal, they’re protected and rare,” Joe added.
The whole ordeal took at least an hour and despite getting bitten on the hand, Joe said it did not deter him in his rescue efforts.
“I’m an animal lover and I would do the same thing again. if I saw an animal on the road in distress I’d always look after it, that’s just my nature,” he concluded.
Clare ISPCA office Frankie Coote has warned the public in light of this incident that it is better not to interfere with wild animals but that in this case, the people involved had no choice but to get involved as the otter would have died.
“Animals like otters, badgers and foxes avoid people at all costs but if cornered by people, they don’t understand that your only trying to help and they can get very aggressive. It is also very important when dealing with wild animals that you release it at a safe place close to where you found it.
“I want to congratulate those people in Tulla for getting involved. Otters are a protected species and if you see one, I would advise people not to panic. they are not dangerous and at all costs will avoid people, but when they are in distress they can become very aggressive,” Mr Coote said.