Otter’s return to Donegal after rehabilitation in Scotland

Successful Return to Donegal for ‘Shannon’

Shannon has been on quite an adventure over the past year.

When a local family found Shannon, an orphaned otter of no more than 2 months, near the River Leannan in Co. Donegal they contacted Pat Vaughan, their local National Parks and Wildlife Service Conservation Officer.   Pat then contacted Emmett Johnston, another NPWS Ranger, who together with local wildlife rehabilitator Killian McLaughlin, got in touch with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland for assistance.  This started a 14 month process to rear and reintroduce a healthy and happy animal back into her natural habitat.

As is often the case with wildlife, it was in Shannon’s best interest to be reared with other otters giving her the best chance of successful rehabilitation and reintegration into the wild. Unfortunately none of the rehabilitators in Ireland (listed on were currently rearing otter cubs.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland (WRI), an organisation which coordinates a network for the rehabilitation of wildlife in Ireland, and has extensive International contacts, then called the International Otter Survival Fund (

Grace Yoxon from the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF), located on the Isle of Skye in Scotland told WRI that they had another otter cub of Shannon’s age in their facility and the two otters could be reared together. A joint effort by the NPWS, WRI, Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the South of Scotland Wildlife Hospital then transported Shannon to the Isle of Skye.

Shannon happily spent the next year being successfully reared with another otter and now is totally wild and old enough to be released. Throughout the year WRI and ISOF were in regular contact to ensure that Shannon was successfully rehabilitating. During this time, WRI was working with the local NPWS to ensure a ‘soft release’ for Shannon in a safe, suitable location in Donegal. Making sure this location was away from roads or areas where otters could cause damage e.g. fishing lakes/fish farms.

Otters’ preferred habitats are lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, and coast lines. Their homes or Holts are dug in river banks with underwater entrances. Otters mainly eat fish but also eat frogs, crayfish, crabs, and other aquatic invertebrates and sometimes other small animals and birds.

The tremendous effort, dedication and co-ordination of people and organisations both in Ireland and Scotland has led to Shannon being successfully released back into the wild in a beautiful, remote location in Glenveagh National Park, Co Donegal.

An eye from afar will be kept on Shannon to make sure she settles in well in her new home and socialises with other otters. A blue identification mark was sprayed onto Shannon’s back so that Larry McDaid (NPWS) who cared for Shannon when she returned, can watch out for a blue tinted otter swimming around the Loch!

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