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Young otters return to the wild

TWO young otters have been successfully released back into the wild almost a year after their mother was killed on a Shetland road.

Joey and Thea were brought to Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary last September when they were less than two weeks old.

Before they were rescued the twins had been heard crying for help for days after they lost their mother in the village of Vidlin, but no one knew where they were or what was wrong.

Then four year old Joey Wilson found the young male in the middle of the road during a torrential downpour, while Thea appeared the following morning in the playground at Lunnasting primary school during break time.

Jan Bevington, who runs the sanctuary, said Joey was in very poor shape but picked up when he was reunited with his sister.

“They must have been no more than ten days old when they arrived. Joey was very weak and cold, but Thea was in much better condition and it was great they had each other to comfort after the trauma they had been through,” she said.

The otters had to be kept indoors for weeks being bottle fed like babies day and night before they were able to be moved into the sanctuary’s custom-built otter unit.

Then in December they were ready to go into an outdoor pen where they stayed until their release at the weekend.

Jan explained that otter cubs spend about a year with their mothers, so they have stay in captivity for that long before they are ready for the wild.

Joey and Thea had grown up a bit faster because they had each other to play with, she said.

“They were a bit of a double act and worked as a team so they were quite a handful,” she said.

“One of the first things they did was dislodge the bath that was plumbed into their outdoor pen, so we ordered tin baths from a firm in the Midlands, which Streamline brought up for free and which they both absolutely loved.

“They also wolfed through a lot of fish during their stay and we have to thank the SSPCA for covering the cost of that for such a long time.”

Releasing otters after a year in captivity takes a lot of preparation and Jan enlisted the help of wildlife enthusiasts who eventually tracked down a site where they would not be encroaching on an existing otter’s territory.

“After we captured them in their pen we drove them to the site, which could not have been more perfect with a burn running down to a rocky beach.

“It was a heart stopping moment when we opened the door of their wee hut and watched them first of all peer out to inspect their new surroundings, and then cautiously emerge to explore the burn and the beach.

“It’s been a couple of days now and we’re getting reports that they seem to be doing fine. We’ll have to keep leaving food for them until they learn to fend for themselves and we don’t know how long that will take.”

Jan said she would like to thank all the people who helped with the rescue, rearing and release, including the Robertson family in Vidlin, the children, staff and parents at Lunnasting primary school, Louise and Terresa at the SSPCA, Siân Bryant and family, Al and Aurore Whitworth, Streamline, Brettell Brothers, Hugh Harrop, Jean at Soothend Wildlife Centre and the Moncrieff family, as well as all of Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary’s Facebook followers who have been so supportive throughout.