She may have stood little chance of survival when she was discovered on a fishing boat under some rags, but an orphaned baby otter is now fighting fit.
The young cub was quickly taken to the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Jan and Pete Bevington, after she was last month found on a fishing boat by Scottish Seafarms worker Richard Hughson in Ronas Voe.
But now the daring draatsie, named Rona following her recent escapade, is recovering, largely thanks to fish soup and some loving kindness from the Bevingtons. But she is not afraid of using her sharp, pointed teeth, at times biting the very hand that feeds her.
Her story has been outlined on the wildlife sanctuary’s Facebook page since her discovery on 23rd November. That has made the feisty little bundle something of a sensation. A video of the little creature is, meanwhile, proving immensely popular on the internet – with something in the region of 15,000 hits.
The couple have been slowly feeding her up, with Rona now enjoying dishes of liquidised whiting. But Mrs Bevington said it would be another two to three weeks before the cub is weaned completely off the bottle. Until then, anyone feeding the little draatsie will need to watch their fingers.
When feeding through a bottle, Rona has a habit of chewing through the lamb feeder teats.
“She is still on the bottle at the moment, but as I thicken soup and she gets more and more into the fish, we’ll ease back on the bottle.
“She is particularly ferocious, but I think it is because she is scared. She lost her mum at an early stage, so she was on her own. She was definitely very dehydrated.
“She had the most incredible set of teeth. We thought it was a second set. That’s why we’d been trying her with fish for quite a while. But then, I thought, she’s dehydrated. That makes the gums set back and makes it worse. It took us a couple of weeks to get her fully re-hydrated.”
It had been hoped that a Christmas present of “extra thick gloves” would help protect Mr Bevington’s fingers during feeding sessions. But Rona has not taken well to the new and unfamiliar hand-wear.
“Our neighbours, Anne and Iain Sloan, donated us extra-thick gloves for Christmas,” added Mrs Bevington.
“She just went crazy. She was much worse than she normally was. We had to go back to the old gloves.”
“Round the clock feeding” is still the order of the day. But in the meantime, the couple have to make sure Rona is kept away from their resident male otter who – they have been warned – could kill young Rona if given the chance.
Although Rona is now doing much better, the couple have been quick to point out the growing
need to protect otters, particularly with draatsie numbers in some parts of the isles down by as much as 80 per cent. Mrs Bevington said a lack of food inshore was forcing many otters to venture across land, putting them at risk of coming to grief in traffic.
The couple support calls made by The International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) for 2016 to be declared the “Year of the Otter” amid fears for the survival of many types of the mammal.
“We really could do with an overall survey done in Shetland again. There’s not been one done for years.
“I think a lack of inshore food is causing otters to track across land and get run over.
“We are very concerned about the amount of road-kills.”
• See our Facebook page for a video of Rona.