A rescue story with an otterly happy ending

Posted on 25 November 2019 by

Daniela Valla

in the Animals in the wild blog

Grant lost his mum, but didn't lose hope: how Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary rescued a young otter pup.

Nestled between the emerald coastline of the Scottish Shetland Islands and the deep blue Atlantic ocean is Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary - a place that for over 30 years has been a vital refuge for countless seals and otters, providing them with life-saving care and rehabilitation so they can return to the wild, where they belong.

One of the animals lucky enough to encounter sanctuary owners Jan and Pete Bevington is an otter cub named Grant, who is now making an amazing recovery...

A cry in the night

Grant was first found by a local family who heard his cries through the night. He was standing in the middle of the road all alone, desperately crying for help - it was clear that he had lost his mother and it was time to take action. The family quickly scooped his little body up and took him to Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary. That day, Jan and Pete were right in the middle of running a Marine Mammal Medic course with local divers. It was a hectic time, but they didn't hesitate to take Grant in. Upon visiting him they could tell that he was very young, only around two months old - but he was strong and resilient.

Image: Grant being bottle-fed in the sanctuary

Growing big and strong

Grant's recovery diet started out with bottle feeds, as he was still a very young cub. Once he grew bigger, expert staff at the sanctuary gradually introduced him to solid foods: starting with a blend of fish and formula, moving on to bigger and bigger chunks of fish until he eventually learned to eat a whole fish, like an otter would in the wild. He's now eating four whole fish a day, and this is likely to increase to 5-6 fish each day as he grows.

Image: Grant in the outdoor pen

Born to be wild

Grant now lives in one of the outdoor pens in the sanctuary, where he can get familiar with the scents and environments of his natural habitat until he is released, once the harsh Shetlands winter melts away. Staff at Hillswick will find an ideal place to reintroduce him in the wild, making sure there aren't any other otters nearby so that he has a fair chance at fending for himself during his first few days as a wild otter. They'll continue to feed him in there and slowly reduce the supply of food, until Grant is finally able to live like an otter should, hunting his own fish and swimming freely in the ocean.

Image: Jan and Pete Bevington, founders of Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary

How to help otters and other Scottish wildlife

Your kind donations to World Animal Protection have been supporting Hillswick - the only wildlife sanctuary in the Shetlands. Thanks to your generosity, works are taking place right now to renovate a seal care unit, equipped with indoor pools and everything Jan, Pete and the volunteers need to look after the animals that populate this dense and diverse haven of British wildlife. Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest news on how you can help us protect animals.

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