Somebody takes a picture of an otter in a Nessie like position and the media come out saying this is a "common cause of Nessie sightings". Dr. Jonathan Wills recently took the above picture of an otter swimming around the port of the town of Lerwick on the Shetland Islands.
After a recent hoo-haa about pesky logs fooling people into seeing plesiosaurs and even the tired earthquake theory again producing a small rumble, it's the turn of the humble and unassuming otter to deceive those incredulous witnesses.
Now there is nothing new about otters and Nessie. Within months of a strange sea monster being reported in the Highland loch in 1933, otters were one of the first explanations to be trotted out in the defence of normality. It's a situation I thought was best summed up in the picture below.
Ever since then, they have occasionally been dragged out of their holts to explain various sightings. I covered one such case in 2012. It was the Harvey-MacDonald land sighting from 1934 in which it was suggested the witnesses mistook a three foot otter for a ten foot monster.
Now, don't get me wrong. People can mistake branches, otters and earthquakes for thirty foot monsters. As I have said before, if they saw the otter at 500 yards for 2 seconds in a fog, then I can entertain the idea that they got it wrong.
At the same time, such a sighting is hardly likely to make it into the Nessie Hall of Fame. In fact, it would be lucky to be recorded for future researchers. Of course, I am exaggerating to make a point. Each case is assessed on its own merits, but the principle still stands, the better the sighting the less talk of otters, please.
If we are going to approach this problem of eyewitness reports with a degree of quantifiability, I remind readers of my formula below and you can read more about it here. Sceptics tend to set W to 0.
I now await some journalist to exclusively reveal how "most Nessie sightings" can be accounted for by boat wakes.