Handling Wildlife – Otters
April 19th, 2015
REMEMBER you are responsible for your own safety and that of others. Even in following these guidelines you are at risk of harm and should enlist the help of a trained professional. Knoxwood will not be held responsible for any injures to yourself, others or property.
Please remember – you must never handle any wild bird or animal unless you are certain it needs help, and your sole intention is to provide that help.
Injured otters are probably the most dangerous British species you are likely to encounter. They have lightening fast reactions, razor sharp teeth and immense jaw strength that can easily remove fingers from the unwary. They are also generally super strong and we recommend that those without experience do not go near them.
Normally, the only reason you will have to come into close contact with an otter is if you find an orphan, or a road casualty. Please see our separate article on orphan otters.
Road injuries in adult otters: You shoud call your vet or local sanctuary and have them rescue the otter.
Failing this, you will need a clear plan on how to proceed:
Find somewhere (sanctuary, vet, rehabilitation centre, RSPCA) for the fox to go before you attempt a rescue, otherwise you may spend hours driving around with an otter in your boot.
Check how responsive the otter is BEFORE you touch him. Use a wooden stick, one from the hedge will do, it should be at LEAST 2 feet long, (nothing made of metal such as a brolly or tire iron) and stand well back before you GENTLY stroke the otter all over with it, starting behind the head, and avoiding any obvious injuries and the eyes. The otter will either begin squealing and snap at the stick (this is why the stick should be wood, he will not damage his teeth on it) or remain unresponsive.
If the otter responds you will need to get him some sedation – you must call the vet.
If he does not respond, you must still take care, he may be unconscious and come round unexpectedly.
To move an unresponsive otter you will need 2 responsible adults, a vehicle and a large blanket.
Open you car boot / back of a van FIRST
Place the blanket edge along the otters back, one person on each corner, pull the blanket tight and use a sawing motion work the blanket under the otter until you have him in a blanket ‘hammock’ Keep your hands and face as far from the otter as possible.
Keep the blanket tight and lift him into the vehicle, cover him with the blanket edges but do not restrict his breathing by putting the blanket over his nose.
We reccommend this is only done if you have a strong dog grate / partition / dog cage in which to put the otter, in case he wakes up mid-journey.
Tuck him around with more blanket / coats, whatever you have to stop him rolling around, but keep yourself clear from his face.
Do not put him on a car seat, in the front, on someones knee or in a footwell, there will be an accident if he wakes up.
Take him directly to the pre arranged facility and allow the staff there to unload him.
If you are stopped by the police with an otter in your car, you must explain why he is there or there will be serious questions raised, this is why you must have somewhere reputable (vet/sanctuary/rehabilitator) pre-arranged before transport.