AN otter has stunned naturalists by swimming three miles out to sea to take up residence on the Farne Islands off Northumberland.
“It’s an amazing event, and is the first documented evidence of an otter on the islands,” said David Steel, National Trust Farnes head warden.
Wardens found 90ft of otter tracks in mud on Brownsman Island and are sure that the animal has taken up residence.
“Concentrations of gulls have been seen, which suggests they are looking for titbits from the otter feeding,” said David.
“There are plenty of crabs, lobsters and fish for the otter to eat and gullies to provide it with cover. It will do quite well for itself.”
The otter would have had to contend with rip currents, fast eddies and rough conditions to reach the island.
“It was pretty good going for a small animal and we are now keeping a lookout. It would be fantastic to see the otter,” said David.
“It is staggering that an otter could survive the perilous journey out to the Farne Islands, especially Brownsman. We almost had to rub our eyes with disbelief when we discovered the tracks. We have recently had force nine gales and it can be tricky to reach the islands even on a relatively calm day.”
Otters do feed along the mainland shoreline and have been seen at Boulmer and Craster.
David believes that the Farnes otter is a wandering youngster which was searching for its own territory.
It may have been pushed into its sea odyssey because of the strong recovery of otter populations in the North East and the fact that they are now found on virtually every river catchment in the region.
Paul Chanin of The Mammal Society, who has written two books on otters, said: “This is a really exciting discovery. We know that otters like living on the coasts where there is food available and will sometimes travel to islands, but to find them so far off shore shows that they have a remarkable ability as navigators.”