“You’d better make your garden pond otter-proof, or risk losing all your fish!”
That was the warning this week from a leading UK fishery owner after fencing her fishery resulted in a spate of attacks on private ponds nearby – leaving heartbroken koi enthusiasts thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Having already wiped out many river stretches and stillwaters, the predators are now turning their attention to precious, home-reared carp.
Sarah Thompson, from Barford Lakes in Norwich, Norfolk, is predicting the problem will only get worse as otters run out of food on natural venues.
“I fenced off one of my lakes that was being ravaged by otters and now people in the local village are having priceless carp taken from their ponds,” Sarah told Angling Times.
“It’s perfectly clear that if you fence off your water it only pushes the otters to another river, stillwater or pond that isn’t protected.
“Unfortunately, the non-angling public are now beginning to find out how destructive and expensive otters can be. But it gives our sport more power and strength to create a voice to tell the authorities we need help.”
Kevin Mann, who lives just over a mile from Barford in the village of Colton, lost 17 of his prized koi worth over £3,000 in just three weeks.
“I’d hand-reared these fish, some of which were 23 years old – I’m heartbroken,” said Kevin.
“Now I, and at least three other pond keepers in the village understand the pain that fisheries and river clubs are being put through.
“I never thought they could be capable of such destruction and people have to realise that they aren’t the cuddy, lovable creatures many think they are.”
But it looks as though ornamental pond keepers, like fishery owners, face little choice but to fence off their waters as a costly last line of defence.
Kenny Crooks, a project officer for Wild Places, a Wildlife Trusts initiative based in the North East, confirmed that their surveillance cameras erected in private gardens have uncovered a new wave of predation.
“Whether you’re a fishery owner or a pond keeper, it’s vital that you erect fencing now – these camera images are perfect proof of that,” said Kenny.
“For the time being, we have little choice but to try to protect our fish and live side by side with otters.”