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Otter lunacy in Co Clare as farmer rescues frightened animal

An otter caused havoc when he tried to evade attempts to return him back to his habitat in Tulla, Co Clare yesterday.

The otter in hot pursuit of Joe Burke.
The otter in hot pursuit of Joe Burke.
Image: Arthur Ellis

THEY USUALLY LOOK cute and harmless, but the otter pictured to the right caused more than a little commotion in a Co Clare town yesterday.

The foot long animal caused havoc when he left his usual home and went for a wander in Tulla.

His adventurous day began when he was spotted in the town at around 12.30pm by Joe Burke, a farmer from nearby Broadford, as he entered Littleton Animal Feeds, owned by his friend Mike Hogan.

When he spotted the otter, it was heading for the Main St of Tulla, where Joe was certain the otter would get rolled over by a car or mauled by a dog.

And it turned out that the otter couldn’t have picked a better rescuer as Joe has a keen interest in the natural world, is a big fan of the National Geographic channel and has in-depth knowledge of the natural habitats of Irish animals.

He described to TheJournal.ie what happened during the first part of what turned out to be a three-part rescue:

We saved his life really. We rescued him first into a courtyard and we blocked the entrance with pallets, myself and Mike Hogan. I thought OK, he’s safe now so Mike called a newspaper reporter and that was the rescue completed and I was quite happy.

But it certainly wasn’t over.

There was quite a crowd gathering with a lot of children, but the otter was trying to escape and he was quite aggressive. It is most unusual to see an otter during the day. I’ve a great knowledge of wild animals and their habitats and I knew they were a protected species. My focus was getting him into a safe area where the rescue services could be called.

Then the otter caused some alarm when he proceeded to put his head into a Tayto bag and couldn’t get it out.

There was a number of children and mothers and they were getting quite upset that he was going to die and smother. So I said to Mike, I don’t want children to see something like that, so we decided to get into rescue mode.

Joe managed to get the Tayto bag off the otter’s head and move the animal into a large canvas bag, which he secured with a cable tie.

The duo then drove to a nearby lake with the otter in tow.

But we reached the lake and the gate to the lake was locked. Then when we looked into the bag we saw he had bitten his way out in the space of about 5 or 10 minutes. The back window was broken so he jumped out the window.

The brave men followed in hot pursuit. “I hadn’t run as fast in a long time,” said Joe. They put together a makeshift trap using a traffic cone and wooden board, and were finally able to bring the otter to the lake.

But the drama wasn’t over yet.

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The poor otter had been so worn out by his ordeal that he had run out of energy. “He was drowning in the lake, so we brought him back into the shoreline. We got his head above water for 10 or 15 minutes and I’m sure the cold water cooled him down and he got his energy back. It was a successful rescue,” said a satisfied Joe.

Though he was chased by the otter and even sustained a minor scratch to his hand during the rescue, Joe said:

I’m a farmer and a livestock dealer all my life and I sustain injuries every day – that was only a small superficial scratch. Yesterday evening I was working with horses and I got worse injuries. I’m used to dealing with situations like that but that was my first time I happened to deal with an otter.

Joe said the otter was scared because he was no longer in his natural habitat, but the Broadford man was fearless in his quest to bring the otter back home. He said:

There was a man in his seventies from my village there, he would be a very hardy man – he played hurling and a lot of dangerous sports – and he said, ‘Joe, I wouldn’t have attempted that’.

Otter lunacy in Co Clare as farmer rescues frightened animal
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  • Otter in Tulla Village Co Clare

    A young otter terrorises locals in the County Clare village of Tulla when he appeared on the main street on Monday afternoon. Pic Arthur Ellis.
  • Otter in Tulla Village Co Clare

    The young otter in hot pursuit. Pic Arthur Ellis.
  • Otter in Tulla Village Co Clare

    Joe Burke shows his wounds after battling with the otter. Pic Arthur Ellis.
  • Otter in Tulla Village Co Clare

    The young otter tries to chew his way out of Joe Burke's car - moments after chewing through an animal feed bag. Pic Arthur Ellis.
  • Otter in Tulla Village Co Clare

    The young Otter tries to break free from the car of Joe Burke in the County Clare village of Tulla. Pic Arthur Ellis.
  • Otter in Tulla Village Co Clare

    Local men Mike Hogan and Joe Burke create a homemade trap to catch the young otter. Pic Arthur Ellis.
  • Otter in Tulla Village Co Clare

    The young Otter finally tastes freedom outside the village of Tulla. Pic Arthur Ellis.

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