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Stackyard News May 2010

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SAC Vets Pay Tribute to Bute’s Gourmet Otters

Vets at SAC’s Disease Surveillance Centre in Ayr have developed a great respect for the finesse of what are obviously gourmet otters on the Isle of Bute.

Gourmet otter

Gourmet otter

Just as human fine diners appreciate and pay handsomely for frogs’ legs, it appears at least one otter on the Clyde Coast is equally taken with the legs of toads. However it is not just the choice of diet that the SAC investigators noted, but the neat way the meal had been prepared.

An island vet from a private practice reported that a member of the public had found what they thought were between 100 and 150 dead frogs in two spots beside a remote loch. Interested to know what had caused the deaths, the vet sent samples to Ayr for SAC investigation. There were a number of possible solutions including predation, poisoning, winter kill and a disease called “red leg“.

The latter was ruled out in Ayr when it was discovered the toads – for that is what they were - had no legs, or at least no leg bones and muscles! The head, back and forelimbs of the common toads were intact but all that remained of the back legs was the skin. A neat incision had been made in the abdomen and both meaty leg bones had been withdrawn, leaving the skin turned inside out.

According to Tom Pennycott, Manager at Ayr for SAC Consulting, Veterinary Services,

“Toad skin and some tissues are toxic and have an irritant affect, so some predators such as otters, have developed the technique of skinning the toad legs before they eat them. I have come across this before, when it was initially blamed on hungry humans and not another very dexterous mammal.”

SAC receives financial support from the Scottish Government This work was funded under the Animal Disease Surveillance programme.

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