Releasing Charlie the otter

Charlie the otter hiding before his release back to the wild in September 2017.

Charlie arrived at Hillswick seven months ago from North Nesting where he was abandoned by his mother. We later heard that she’d had three cubs, but could only cope with two so she left wee Charlie to his fate. Fortunately for him care worker Elizabeth Christie from Vidlin was visiting one of her clients at the time and found him under her car. She put him in a box and we went to collect him and bring him to the sanctuary where he has been thriving ever since.

Charlie’s always been a very lively fellow and in the last few months has gone from strength to strength, so much so that it was clear he needed to be released into the wild to start learning to fend for himself. But catching him was another story. Being the speedy and elusive character he is, it took three of us more than 20 minutes to get him to go into his box so we could transport him to the release site.

Once we arrived there and placed his box in a sheltered spot, we opened the door and waited…and waited for him to emerge. Half an hour later with still no sign of Charlie even showing his face, we decided to leave him to his own devices. Not long after we left he was captured on camera as he crept out of his box to explore his new surroundings.

Richard Riley and Alison Riley are yet again kindly monitoring his progress and will be bringing him fish for the next few weeks and months (in ever decreasing amounts) as he learns to hunt for his own food. They’re becoming quite expert at running one of our slow release programmes, having had great success with Sweetpea last year. It is such a great help to us to have such reliable allies. Thank you, guys.

It’s always more difficult for young males being released from captivity as they are bound to be challenged by any dog otters that cross their path, whereas the females are welcomed into the wild. As far as we know there are no other dog otters in the neighbourhood where he is now taking up residence, but the experts are telling us there is hardly a section of Shetland’s coastline without an otter in the vicinity. So good luck, Charlie. Stay safe, and have a great life.

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