Otters and Butterflies in Dartmoor, England

By - January 15, 2013 (Updated: November 19, 2014)

This entry is part 23 of 23 in the series Portugal & Andalusia 2012.
One of the furry residents of the Otter Sanctuary in Dartmoor

One of the furry residents of the Otter Sanctuary in Dartmoor

We love animals of all shapes and sizes, so when we accidentally discovered the Buckfast Butterflies and Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary, in Dartmoor National Park in Devon, England, we knew we had to take a look.

Here at CheeseWeb HQ, we love all things furry (especially our own furry staff members). We also love a good zoo or animal rescue park. We miss the abundant wildlife of our home provinces in Canada, as well. So, when we saw a sign for an otter rescue park, a species well known on the East Coast of Canada, we stopped in for a visit.

Butterflies and otters may seem an unlikely combination, but at the Buckfast Butterflies and Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary visitors can get up close and personal with both beautiful flying insects and fuzzy mammals with loads of character.

As we purchased our tickets, the helpful guide told us the otter feeding would begin shortly, if we cared to join. We did!

The otter sanctuary has a variety of local otters as well as breeds from Canada and Asia. The otters here have been rescued and rehabilitated. Those that can recover fully are returned to the wild. But we were here to view the permanent residents.

Feeding Time at the otter sanctuary

Feeding time at the otter sanctuary!

These little creatures have so much personality and they became even livelier when their keeper arrived with lunch. Depending on the species, the meal consisted of ground meat, baby chickens or small fish. It was fascinating (if slightly disturbing) to watch them eat with such gusto.

As the keeper handed out the otters’ tasty treats, he told us about each different species and also told us the personality traits of the individual otters. These little guys are obviously very well cared for at the sanctuary.

Otter Sanctuary in Dartmoor

You can’t help but smile as you watch these little characters eat, swim and play.

We spent ages just watching the otters eat, swim and play.

Finally it was time to check out the Butterfly House. Inside this hot, humid greenhouse, we were surrounded by beautiful flying works of art.

Inside the Butterfly House

A colourful look inside the butterfly house

The butterflies and moths are hatched on site and one of the most fascinating displays is the array of colourful cocoons.

The butterflies themselves are all colours and sizes, ranging from tiny to as large as the palm of your hand. Stand still long enough and you might even attract a passenger. It’s easy to get great close-up photos of the butterflies as they land on the feeding stations or bask in the sun, drying out their wings.

Butterfly House Dartmoor

My artistic take on one of the beautiful butterflies at the butterfly farm.

All in all the Buckfast Butterflies and Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary is a wonderful little animal park and well worth a visit if you are in the Dartmoor area. Stay tuned for another animal attraction in Dartmoor coming soon on CheeseWeb.

Buckfast Butterflies & Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary
The Station, Buckfastleigh, Devon
TQ11 0DZ, UK

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Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 16 hours ago


  1. Comment by Rosamund Parkinson

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Rosamund Parkinson January 15, 2013 at 14:38

    Was that a live baby chicken?? Yikes !!! Great photos.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison January 15, 2013 at 15:24

      It was a baby chicken but (thankfully) it wasn’t live. Depending on the type of otter, they are fed a diet of fish, (dead) chicks and/or ground meat. I didn’t ask where the chicks come from because honestly I really didn’t want to know 🙂

    • Comment by Derek C

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Derek C January 15, 2013 at 19:37

      As I recall, the guide said that they had a deal with a large poultry farm to take the newly hatched chicks that didn’t survive. Sad, but at least not wasted!

      • Comment by Alison

        Alison Cornford-Matheson

        Alison January 16, 2013 at 09:24

        Glad you caught that! I must have been too busy taking photos 🙂

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