Otter trapped by riverside litter in Dorset shakes free of cable tie ‘necklace’

We often get calls from the public when they stumble upon an orphaned or injured otter. Late last year we received a message from a man in Blandford, Dorset, who had spotted a local otter with what looked to be a cable tie around its neck. We immediately began monitoring the stricken animal; reliable locals watched and photographed the otter, and sent information to our headquarters in Devon. We spoke to Natural England and agreed that we could, if needed, set humane capture traps at the river to catch the animal and remove the tie.

CREDIT: PAT PATRICK / UK WILD OTTER TRUST  

Over the next few days it became apparent that it was in fact two or three ties joined together that had slipped over the animal’s head—we were concerned that the otter may get snagged underwater and drown. We put together a rescue plan with help from local vets on standby, boats operated by the local council, kind landowners’ permission to access certain areas of the river, the RSPCA, and our willing volunteers, all of whom give their time for free (a HUGE thank you to you all).

We had a great deal of interest on Twitter following our initial tweet about the cable-tied otter, which went viral and generated national news coverage.

“If Blue Planet 2 raised concerns about plastic pollution on a global scale, the Dorset otter with a cable tie around its neck brings the issue home. Litter and pollution is choking the life out of British wildlife. Think and act locally and lives will be saved.”
— 
Dr Daniel Allen, UKWOT Media & Policy Advisor

We monitored for two more days and established that the animal in question was one of last year’s cubs: it had a very distinctive scar on its nostril. Some seven hours before the planned rescue, news came that the otter had somehow managed to slip loose of the ties! We checked photo twice a day to ensure that it was the same otter, and stood down once we were thankfully able to confirm that it had rid itself of the ties—the best possible outcome for the welfare of the otter.

This article is from our February UKWOT newsletter. Subscribe here.