Hammer Scar – The End of Five Years Together. Stephen Powles

Hammer Scar – The End of Five Years Together

On Sunday 21st January 2018 Adrian Bayley and I ran the first of three courses on spraint analysis, held at my house. At the coffee break I glanced out of the window and to see the river had burst its banks, necessitated a quick scramble to rescue two camera traps that were in imminent danger of being submerged.

Camera traps retrieved, my thoughts turned to Hammer Scar and her twin 8 week old cubs (as well as to the job in hand – spraint analysis!). Had she kept them safe from the rising water? I knew she had young cubs as only four days earlier, holding them by the scruff of the neck, she had moved them, one at a time, downstream through my CCTV system.

The following morning I received a call from a friend. He had just seen an adult otter dead on the side of the road 300m from my house. He reported that it looked quite small. My heart sank – was it Hammer Scar or one of her 14 month cubs? It was unlikely to be anyone else. As I approached I could see a very small otter, flattened and only 3m from the adult. I then knew it must be Hammer Scar and that one of her young cubs had perished with her. I had dreaded the day that my magical relationship with her came to an end but had never envisaged finding her, least of all on the road.

She must have been moving the young cubs up the sides stream and, with the high flow through the culvert, had made the decision to go “over the top”. The move may have been prompted by the flood the previous day. Irrespective, it proved to be fatal.

The following day I found the remaining cub (a male) in a small log pile only 20m from where his mother and sister had perished. The cub, Nipper, is now in rescue and may well return here for a “soft” release in due course.

George and Kate, the twin cubs from the previous litter, had remained despite Hammer Scar producing another litter. They are now 15 months old and appear to be thriving, often travelling together as they move through the whole of what was Hammer Scar’s home range. George is very relaxed with me but Kate is less so (hopefully this will change!).

Hammer Scar’s death was always going to be hard but losing here on the road was tragic and very unexpected. The blow has been softened to some extent by finding Nipper and that his elder brother and sister are thriving. It remains to be seen if Kate stays and rears her own cubs were she herself was born and raised.

She has been seen by millions, having made three TV appearances with a forth to come soon (in episode 6 of Wild Great Britain, Channel 5). It is comforting to know that Hammer Scar will live on through her cubs and in the memories of all those who knew her.

Thank you, Hammer Scar.

Stephen Powles