AN ORPHAN otter cub found close to death beside a West Dorset river is now on the path to a full recovery.

The nine-week-old was discovered in the back garden of a house in Piddletrenthide, Dorchester, during torrential rain.

A couple came across the tiny starving creature after spotting their dogs barking at something in the long grass next to the River Piddle.

The otter was collected by volunteers and taken to Dorset Wildlife Rescue in Creekmoor, Poole, to be given round the clock care.

Volunteers named her Niamh which means goddess of beauty and brightness due to her fighting spirit.

Nick Ridge, of Dorset Wildlife Rescue, said: “We don’t know how she got there as she is a bit too young to be swimming.

“She must have wandered there and we don’t know what has happened to her mum.

“She had been without food for three or four days and was literally skin and bone.

“She is tiny and she would never have been found if the dogs hadn’t smelt her out.

“On the road back our volunteer Chris had her in his arms and thought she was not going to survive the drive back.

“But we stayed up with her all night and gave her fluids. She has got a long way to go still but she is a feisty little thing. She is now tucking into trout like there is no tomorrow.”

It is hoped that Niamh will soon be well enough to be transferred to the Otter Sanctuary where she can be with her own kind.

“They will keep her for around nine months before finding a suitable place for her to be released into the wild,” added Nick.