Mull otter cub makes most of Matthew’s hospitality

Time for a snooze, Bealltainn curled up for a nap in Margaret's garden.

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Dubbed Bealltainn (meaning May) due to the time of year she was discovered, a destitute baby otter is well on her way to recovery thanks to a friendly family on Mull.

Margaret Matthew was weeding in her garden on the Ross of Mull when she became aware of a presence. When she looked down and there was an otter cub, leaning against her leg.

‘I couldn’t believe my eyes,’ she said.

‘Then I thought, what’s it doing here? Something must be wrong.’

The little otter’s fur was soaking wet, her eyes were shut and she was making little peeping noises. She  staggered about the garden, bumping into things and eating daisies. It was clear she was starving.

The otter cub was painfully thin and very disorientated when it arrived in Margaret’s garden.

After tucking into fish fillets and a hardboiled egg, however the painfully thin cub stopped staggering around and fell asleep on the grass clearly exhausted by her meal.

Margaret, her son Matt and daughter-in-law Rachel contacted Mull Otter Group and following a discussion tried to reunite the cub with her family, taking her to the nearest shore where she swam, ate some fish left by Margaret then crept into a thicket and slept for the rest of the day.

At 5.30 the next morning, Margaret was back at the shore, watching out for a hopefully reunited otter family. By 11am there still was no sign. Her phone rang and it was Matt and Rachel reporting that the otter was back in the garden.

‘All fluffed up, eyes open, not in the least aggressive but very interested in another meal,’ said Margaret.

Back in the garden for lunch.

The cub, which experts believe to be around six months old, had crossed a main road to get back to the Matthew household.

The otter’s dependence on humans was worrying as this is not natural behaviour but her recovery was very rewarding.

‘It was an amazing experience which brought real joy to us all,’ added Margaret.

A scientist to trade, Matt looked at the otter’s spraint (poo) and found there were no signs of the usual otter food remains like fish scales or bones, just vegetable matter and seaweed. This helped everyone decide that the cub must have been separated from its mum for some time and needed to be cared for.

Sue and Darren Morley of Mull Otter Group collected the little cub and, as cubs usually stay with their mothers for at least a year, often 18 months, they arranged for her to be cared for at the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) on Skye.

Grace and Paul Yoxon of IOSF named the little otter Bealltainn and the cub has now settled into a large enclosure and is feeding well.

IOSF will make every effort to ensure she regains her strength, grows well and develops her skills. They will care for her at the sanctuary as long as is necessary but plan to return her to the wild to live a long and happy otter life.

Anyone wishing to support cubs in the IOSF Sanctuary, can send a cheque (marked ‘hospital’ on the back) to 7 Black Park, Broadford, Isle of Skye, IV49 9DE or make a donation online at