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Friday 23 February 2018

Snapper bags his slippery prey after long stakeout

Shane Hickey

IT was an otterly difficult task and John Rafferty had almost given up after spending hours waiting in the mud for a glimpse of one of our native mammals.

But his patience eventually paid off when he managed to capture a series of rare pictures of the shy otter -- which is usually only glimpsed during the night -- on the hunt for dinner.

Mr Rafferty finally got his pictures after a succession of stake-outs around Lough Allen in north-west Donegal.

In his pictures, the mud-covered animal negotiates the shore before catching an eel in its mouth.

Getting the images was a coup for Mr Rafferty, who specialises in landscape and marine photography.

"There is a lake close to my house where I found him. I spent a good bit of last year trying to get him but they are very difficult to find," he said.

"It is because they are nocturnal, so they are very, very elusive."

It has been estimated by conservationists that 90pc of riverbanks, lakeshores and coastal areas around the country have resident otters.

This is not mirrored in Europe however, where the number of animals is in serious decline.

Eels are amongst the otter's favourite prey along with trout and salmon.

Mr Rafferty, who is also the editor of marine magazine 'Irish Skipper', said of the otter in his photos: "That was the only one that was there. I think they largely stick to themselves apart from when it is mating time, when mothers have young ones with them."

Residents living in and around Lough Allen will welcome the sight of the animal close by however, as they are known to populate areas where the water is cleaner.

Otters have also famously featured in the work of Henry Williamson, who wrote 'Tarka the Otter' in 1927, which was subsequently recorded as an audio book by David Attenborough.

Irish Independent

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