Video of a rescued otter’s joyous first taste of freedom has gone viral after apparently tapping into the nation’s feelings on escaping lockdown.
Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary’s footage of Grant the otter frolicking in the sea after his release has been viewed a staggering 500,000 times.
While many of the views may be due to the video being shared by JK Rowling to her nine million Twitter followers, sanctuary trustees also feel captured the mood of lockdown Britain.
Pete Bevington, who has been at the sanctuary in Northmavine for 25 years, said: “We’ve never had a release like it.
“As soon as we released him, he shot out of his box like a bullet.
“From the moment he hit the water, he started leaping in the air with excitement.
“I think that’s what got people’s attention, especially right now with everyone stuck in lockdown.
“We’ve had quite a few people making comments like ‘this is me after lockdown’.
“He certainly seems so to have struck a chord.”
Grant arrived at the sanctuary last August, aged around two months, after he had become separated from his mother in a thunderstorm.
Mr Bevingon said the young pup made quite an impression from the outset.
“He was a wonderful otter from the word go,” he said. “Such a great character.
“You’d often see him scampering around and playing; he had such a lot of energy and a huge personality.”
While Grant was a friendly otter on arrival, Mr Bevington explained sanctuary staff had to ensure he did not become too comfortable around people, as it could jeopardise his return to the wild.
“Otters are much harder to rehabilitate than seals,” he added.
“In the wild, they stay with their mum for a whole year before she kicks them out to fend for themselves.
“So when they first arrive here, you really have to hold them close, mother them and bottle feed them.
“But then you have to break that bond so they don’t become too attached – so that they don’t imprint – that’s the difficult bit.”
Mr Bevington said otters tended to find their wild instincts as soon as they had a taste of fish.
“To begin with they’re all cute and cuddly, but as soon as they get a taste for it, they start acting fierce and wild and a bit aggressive too.
“That’s when you know you can start pulling back quite quickly.
“The less they want to know you the better – a hostile, unfriendly otter is a really good sign.”
As Grant had always been such a feisty creature, he posed quite a challenge to catch.
However, with help from Siân Bryant from Scottish SPCA, he was eventually rounded up for release.
Having nurtured Grant from a young age, Mr Bevington said it was great to see him finally free.
“It was really fantastic,” he said.
“It’s a real privilege to be able to be able to do this kind of work, with both seals and otters.
“We bring them up the best we can, prepare them for life in the wild.
“So to see an otter take to the wild like Grant did, was just incredible.
“Jan [Bevington] and I were both blown away when we saw him in the water, leaping around like a dolphin, it was really jaw dropping.
“It gave us no doubt at all that he was fit and ready to be out in the wild.”
Mr Bevington said the sanctuary had noticed a rise in reports of otters in recent months, which indicated a heathy population, but had also led to a sad number of deaths on the roads.
He said the sanctuary could not do its work without the support of its followers, and has encouraged people to donate via its website.