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Hammer Scar

Hammer Scar: List

TRUST - A Remarkable Relationship

I inadvertently built a remarkable relationship with a female otter who took up residence on the stream below my house. It was never my intention to habituate her to me but, over twelve months, by making regular night-time visits to watch her I happened to earn her trust. How much she trusted me became evident when, ten months after moving into the area, she trusted me enough to leave me to "babysit" Scarlet, her ten week old cub. On the other side of the stream, only a few metres from me, Scarlet chewed (or "gummed") his/her way through a small trout. In the ten minutes that it took the youngster to finish the meal, his mother made several return visits to check up on him taking no notice of me as she did so.










I went on to spend the next four years documenting, filming and photographing her life in incredible detail. Often I would "scramble" to be with her several times in a single week, regularly following her for a couple of hours. One extraordinary night in mid-summer, I spent virtually the whole night with her and her twin cubs. I joined them at 11.30pm and trailed them 1.5 miles up through the valley, eventually parting from them at 4.00am as the dawn chorus came into full swing.


This remarkable relationship was brought to an abrupt end when she was killed on the road. That fateful night, following a period of heavy rain, the force of the water rushing through the culvert beneath the road would have been a problem for her. Carrying a nine week cub would have made it impossible. Cub in her mouth, she must have chosen to go "over the top" with fatal consequences for both her and the cub..


I named her "Hammer Scar" after the hammer-shaped mark that she had on her nose when I first identified her.

HER HOME - she lived in Mid Devon on a small tributary of the River Exe that winds it way through a mosaic of woodland, pastureland and several large gardens. The working assumption has always been that she arrived as a young otter (of 12-18 months of age), having recently dispersed from the river system on which she was born and raised.

HER HOME RANGE - her home range started at the source of the stream, for the first 12 months extending 8km down the watercourse. Subsequently she vacated the lower section, reducing her home range down to 5km. On this relatively small section of stream (and its tributaries) she was able to find sufficient food to successfully rear four cubs through to dispersal.

BREEDING - over the five years that I "knew" her, she gave birth to five litters. The first three were born in February, the fourth in December and the fifth in November.

Scarlet - dispersed

Miriam - dispersed

Titch - died at about 3 months

Puzzle - died at about 10 weeks, presumed killed by a "new" dog otter (named Rusty)

George - dispersed

Kate - dispersed

Milly - killed along with Hammer Scar in an RTA

Nipper - found and went into rescue before being released on the River Torridge

DOG OTTERS - during the time I spent with Hammer Scar a number of dog otters set up a territory that included Hammer Scar's home range. Further work studying my extensive photographic library will be required to get a better idea of how many.  "William", the resident dog otter at the time of Hammer Scar's death, was the presumed father of Milly and Nipper. 
When "Rusty" (a red tinged otter) arrived, the resident dog otter ("Right Spot") and single cub ("Puzzle") both disappeared within 48hrs. Puzzle was never seen again, presumed killed by Rusty.
 However, Right Spot (likely to have been Puzzle's father) returned 4 weeks later supporting a large (and healing) gash on the side of his face. Over the subsequent month, with Hammer Scar likely to have come back into season, Rusty and Right Spot remained as two further "new" otters put in an appearance. About 10 weeks after being expelled, Right Spot's gash had healed and the other otters had left not to be seen again. Right Spot was once again "the dog of the day". 
Dog otters, as with male lions taking over a pride,
may well kill the offspring to bring the female(s) into season sooner than would have otherwise been the case.

DIET - coming soon ....

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