10 Otter Sightings in New Zealand

Otter Sightings in New Zealand

Otter Sightings in New Zealand

Information provided by Richard L. Hewitt
A Maori living at Ruatoki told a correspondent of the New Zealand Herald some years ago of seeing an animal he described like an otter – 25in in length with the head of a rat, fur like a badger, short legs and evidently a swimming, diving, fish eating animal – Otago Daily Times 2.5.1903

Sightings from Lloyd Esler’s article in The Southland Times, Saturday, August 9, 2003

  • Mr Jules Tapper of Queenstown – saw otters in Holyford River, Fiordland
  • Mrs Urguhard saw an animal at Mount Stuart the size of an otter dive into a creek.
  • This area is near Lake Waihola, where footprints of these animals are said to have been found.
  • Herries Beattie in “Otago and Southland History” mentions otters and writes of one that was kept as a pet at Lumsden, Southland in the late 1980’s by a European.  “Beaver like” animals are mentioned in Lake Wanaka and a description of their cries that were heard.
  • Captain Cook in Dusky Sound in 1773 along with three or so others came across an animal, which they all described differently.  They did however all agree that it was about the size of a cat, with short legs and a mouse colour.  This is the first written account.
  • The Southland Times in 1923 gives a similar account by a Mr AE Tapper on sighting in the Waihopai River and the Waikiwi Stream.
  • Mr G A Pollock, an otter researcher, records a sighting from Orawia in 1948.  He describes a Mr WM Burrows while fishing mid morning coming across three animals playing in weedy backwater.  On being shown photographs of otter cubs, he instantly identified these as the animals he had seen.
  • Edith Sharp in 1940 described seeing what sounds like an otter
  • Betty Hawkes, whilst fishing under the Clifden Bridge was startled by “a cream- coloured whiskery animal that swam up and put its from feet on the bank.  It was about 12 inches (30.5cm) long and needed a shave.”
  • Robyn Jenkin in her book “New Zealand Mysteries” writes of another sighting of such an animal in the same vicinity.
  • Jill Linscott from Thornbury sited a mysterious animal swimming across a lagoon on her farm in 1957.
  • Sam Thomas on visiting the Lilburn Stream with his family c1999 described seeing an animal that had “sleek black fur and was about the size of a possum.  It swum as if it was very much at home in the water.  It had a big tail and a short face and was too big for a rat and it wasn’t a possum, ferret or seal.”
  • Wilma Harris of Woodlands sited animals that she was sure were otters at Thornbury in 1929.

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