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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Can you get a good picture of Ulverston canal’s camera-shy otters?

WE at the Evening Mail have so far been bested by otters.

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CHALLENGE Ulverston canal, where elusive otters have been spotted. The Evening Mail is offering £50 to the first person to send in a publishable photograph of the creatures – who have so far evaded our own photographers – at the canal

It is not easy to admit that a team of qualified photographers and journalists have been defeated by small and furry water-dwelling mammals, but it is the truth.

When sent out to shoot the famous otters of Ulverston Canal, our snappers didn’t realise the true difficulty of the challenge they faced.

In an epic game of cat and mouse (cat and otter?) our photographers pursued the mysterious animals for hours, using skills acquired from Wikipedia and David Attenborough programmes.

And yet, every time they returned to the office they were empty handed and teary eyed.

Even our deputy editor James Higgins described a growing obsession he developed over the otters.

He turned his reluctant family into otter-spotters, as he dragged them down to the canal day after day.

It is after all these exhausted attempts that we wave our white flag.

We have now reached the stage where we must swallow our pride and ask you for help. And not just ask. We’re offering cash.

Do you have what it takes to beat a team of professional photographers?

Do you have what it takes to get a shot of a devious, clever and camera-shy creature?

Do you have what it takes to be in the otter paparazzi?

We will offer £50 to one person who can give us the best, clear, usable, good quality photograph of an Ulverston otter.

You must be able to prove that the photo is yours, and it must be a real otter. No men in otter costumes.

It is also a must that the otter is an Ulverston otter. Send us all the photographs you want of otters in the Tyne or the Thames or the Wear or the Severn – this is not what we are looking for.

This competition has only a first place. We have no time for second best.

Legions of pictures of otters may come through our door but only one heroic otter photographer will pocket the bounty money.

So if you do think you have what it takes then what are you waiting for? Get out there and start photographing some otters.

Don’t let them win.

Email your pictures to jayne.cargan@nwemail.co.uk – good luck!

Photography tips

  • Always take care when out and about photographing wildlife. Be very careful especially when taking pictures around water. Never take any risks, and do not disturb the wildlife you want to photograph.
  • Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately for the conditions.
  • Keep your eyes peeled. Otters are hard to spot – binoculars come in handy if you have them. Tell tale signs are bubbles on the surface of the water.
  • A camera with a telephoto lens is essential for otter photography. This does not have to be an expensive DSLR camera. You can get very good results from a compact camera with a decent zoom lens.
  • Be patient, it may take you a long time to bag a decent photo. Keep still and when you do see the otters, be as quiet as possible.
  • Hunting mostly at night, otters frequently spend the daytime in their holt (den).
  • Fish is the diet staple.
  • Otters have long, slim bodies and short limbs, with webbed paws. Most have sharp claws on their feet and muscular tails.
  • Otters are skittish animals. The key to spotting one is patience.
  • The best time to see them is at dawn. Be still or walk quietly, and keep upwind.
  • Clean waterways, abundant prey stocks and vegetated banks are otter necessities. Find these, then find the otters.
  • Keep an eye out for webbed toe prints or spraint (droppings containing fish bones and scales) left at points along an otter’s territory.

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