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You are here: Jake's Bones > The otter incident
This is a story from two years ago, about an amazing skeleton I almost got and why I didn't and how I almost got into trouble instead.
It began when me and Dad were driving to Glasgow to see Star Wars in Concert (which was awesome) when dad spotted something at the side of the road, about a mile outside the village, next to a bridge that goes over a river. He wasn't sure what it was, so he pulled over and we went to have a look at it.
It was a furry animal, about 28 inches long with a thick tail about 10 inches long. It looked about the size of a cat but the legs were much too short. It looked like it had been hit by a car because the lower jaw was dislocated and you could tell by the position of the upper and lower canines.
Dad and I thought it might have been an otter, so when we went back home later that night we looked up about otters and found out that it probably was. I didn't have any otter bones, but I knew that the body would get moved by council workers soon if it was just left there so I tried to think of one way where it could rot down but all the bones would be together.
It was by a river so dad had an idea of putting it in a tube wrapped in mesh, and weighing it down with a stone then putting it in the river. That way it could macerate (rot in water) and I could collect the bones later. This is what the design of the OtterRotter ended up to be:
It was a brilliant design but had only one problem. It was too small for the dead otter to fit in ! So me and Dad had a think and designed the OtterRotter version 2. This was a long mesh cage which could be fastened together with cable ties and placed in a wood. The mesh lets flies in and lets dead tissue go through the holes leaving just the bones. (I used the same design later for rotting down a fox and a squirrel).
Here is the otter just before it went in,
We carried it down the road a bit to where there was a small wood, fastened up the top, and fastened it to a tree so no animals could take the cage away.
Then I covered it up with leaves so no-one knew it was there.
Then we stayed to see the horses in the field nearby, and then the real story happened !
We saw a police car pull up at the side of the road and the two police officers walked down the road one on each side as if they were looking for something. Dad went after them because he thought maybe someone had seen us in the woods and thought we were acting strangely. The police officers said they had a report of an otter by the side of the road which had been shot. Dad said that it hadn't been shot and showed them where the body was and what we were doing.
The policeman said that he had to take away the otter, and anyway while we were allowed to collect most animals in Scotland, we weren't allowed to collect otter bones because they were protected by laws. So the policeman and woman took the otter away, and we weren't allowed to keep it. The next day a man called Alan Stewart who is a famous wildlife crime officer phoned dad to explain all this, and asked questions about my collection, especially my buzzard skulls, but he said it was okay for me to keep those, as long as I could prove the animal died naturally. He was a nice man but it was all a bit scary.
It would be cool to have an otter skull, but if I got one, it would have to have been collected before 1994 which is when the law started.