Otter slaughter destroys kois

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A Colliston man has issued a warning to pond owners after an otter killed all of his prize koi worth well over £10,000.

Last weekend Martin Wells was shocked to discover the bodies of all of his fish strewn around his garden in various states of consumption and set up a game camera to see if the offender returned.

He explained: “On the Saturday night I found all of my fish out of the pond, some of them were half eaten.

“I set up my game camera and what we have is an otter. It’s been back each night for the fish.

“I’ve never heard of this before, we’re only three miles out of Arbroath. I’ve had this pond for 21 years and I’ve always had fish in it.

“I’ve never actually seen a live otter before.”

On the video footage that Martin has captured, and which is now online at www.arbroathherald.co.uk, the otter can clearly be seen feeding on his previous kills and cavorting in the pond.

None of the fish were smaller than a foot and many of the 17 or 18 koi had been in the 3000gallon pond for years, including at least one that had been there since the pond had been dug. Estimates for restocking the fish vary, from starting all over again for several hundred pounds to replacing like-for-like, which at current market values for koi can be anywhere from £10,000 to £17,000. Understandably, Martin is hesitant to do so while the otter remains in the area. He said: “It’s just heartbreaking. All that hard work, all of this pond was dug by hand.

“I thought it might be worth warning folk that this sort of thing does and can happen.”

As far as Martin knows, there are no nearby bodies of water which the otter might call home, hence his surprise and the devastating result when it swooped in and emptied his pond.

The Herald contacted Alan Stewart, well-known nature blogger the Wildlife Detective. He explained: “Normally otters follow a water course, but not exclusively.

“They sometimes cut across hills. They take shortcuts for miles and it’s probably just chance it’s come across this pond.

“They will take the more interesting parts of the fish, like the head and eggs and leave the rest of the body. They could feed on a dozen trout in a night quite easily.”

Alan had a similar experience several years ago when an otter killed a number of his ducks and he wrote an article about it on his blog at https://wildlifedetective.wordpress.com/about/

Alan continued: “If he’s going to restock he could maybe put a metal cover over it, a mesh so the otter can’t get to the koi.

“Restocking too soon could just encourage the otter to keep coming back.

“They are really well protected under the Habitat Regulations, you can’t shoot, trap or transfer it elsewhere.

“They can certainly decimate a pond if they put their mind to it.

“I was realistic about it, it’s a wild animal and it’s entitled to be there. You just need to try and work around nature.”