A WILDLIFE expert claims his snap of an otter proves the animals are a common cause of Nessie sightings.
The image was was taken by Dr Jonathan Wills and shows three humps in the water similar to many representations of the world-famous Loch Ness Monster.
But on closer inspection the shot – taken from the waters around the port of Lerwick in Shetland – is of a female otter know locally as Dratsie.
Her head, back and tail form three very distinctive humps which, at a distance could be mistaken for a much larger, mythical creature.
Dr Wills says he the image taken this week proves the creature said to prowl the depths of Loch Ness hundreds of miles away is more likely a 4ft otter than a monster.
However, despite Nessie experts admitting some sightings can be put down to a case of mistaken identity they continue to insist Loch Ness is home to an unrecorded creature.
Dr Wills, owner of the Seabirds and Seals boat trips, took the photo while skippering near the North end of Bressay island.
He also captured shots of the otter disappearing into the water before snapping it 100 yards away on dry land running past a sheep.
“We know there are otters in Loch Ness,” he said.
“You can understand why some people believe in the Loch Ness Monster when you see three distant humps like this in the water.
“But as we drifted closer this we saw it was only Dratsie, one of our Bressa otters.”
Mr Wills said through binoculars it would be easy to mistake “an otter with two humps and what looks like a long neck,” for a monster.
“I’ve seen a lot of otters,” he continued.
“I’ve been doing this for 24 years – we see otters most weeks. We never see any monsters.”
Commenting on what he thinks the monster that lives in Loch Ness is, he said: “The Loch Ness monster – it’s more likely it’s an otter than a monster.”
Malcolm Robinson, an investigator into the Loch Ness enigma whose book on the subject will be published this summer, said: “There are otters and seals in Loch Ness.
“When tourism come up they may perceive normal animals in the loch for something it isn’t.”
He continued: “Some of the pictures over the years people have taken of what they believe is Nessie, after studying by experts in the field it’s become apparent that they are just otters or seals.”
He added: “I still firmly believe there is at least several large creatures inhabiting Loch Ness. There could well be an unrecorded creature that science hasn’t understood.”
Reports of a mysterious creature in Loch Ness was first emerged in the 7th century and have continued to fascinate people all over the world.
There have been several high profile photographs of what is claimed to be the monster including one that became known as ‘Surgeon’s Photograph’ first published in the national press in 1934.
The shot, now the most iconic image of Nessie, was later deemed by most to be an elaborate hoax.