Since my Nature Notes column a fortnight ago I’ve received lots of reports of Wharfedale frogs arriving at their spawning grounds and, indeed, the first spawn, so clearly everything is properly on the move now! I can also confidently tell you that, after the harsh winter of 2011, spawn was reported from Otley Wetlands on 15th March last year. I can make this assertion because I have just received my copy of The Wharfedale Naturalist, the WNS annual review of the year. It makes fascinating reading especially the Recorders’ reports, collating all the records sent in by members over the year.
It also contains articles, and it’s to one of these that I want to refer this week. Two members describe a truly amazing encounter with an otter in mid- afternoon just by the Old Bridge near the centre of Ilkley. They were walking along beside a turbulent storm-swollen Wharfe when a bedraggled animal emerged on the path in front of them. At first they thought it was a cat carrying a dead rat but, as it drew closer, they saw it was an otter carrying a small cub. She dumped the cub practically at their feet and then ran back to the river and disappeared. The cub was alive – just – and began to haul itself along towards the road. They barred its way with their boots and waited for the mother to return. They waited a long time but eventually the cub’s distressed cries and pitiful state meant they had to take action so they wrapped it up and took it to the vet. The next day they were relieved to hear it had survived the night.
Were this a Disney film we could assume that the plucky mother had brought her cub to two friendly humans for help while plunging back to rescue a second youngster from her washed-out holt. In real life it’s impossible to know the circumstances that led to this extraordinary piece of animal behaviour but the rescuers acted exactly right, waiting before taking action. It’s never a good idea to snatch up and ‘save’ a young creature until you’re sure it’s actually abandoned. In the event, this story has a happy ending. The cub, a male, was taken to a wildlife park near Southampton where it thrived and has been introduced to a rescued female cub in whose company it will be released in the Spring. What a story!