Junette Robinson lives near the River Stour in Christchurch Dorset. She has kept a large pond for 30 years and this featured her treasured collection of koi. One morning she went outside to feed her fish and was horrified to discover that one of specimens was lying maimed at the edge of the water. She then realised that her other fish were either dead or missing completely.
The fish had been in Junette’s pond for over 20 years, were much loved pets and all had names. But now there was a scene of terrible carnage. It transpired that it had been otters from the Stour which had attacked the fish.
Junette had never imagined that the otters would stray so far from the river. To reach her garden they had to traverse a golf course and two rows of houses. But she was sure that otters were to blame for the carnage due to the nature of the attack and the discovery of an otter spraint (dropping) near the pond.
It was the first time that the pond had been targeted by the otters and Junette had not taken specific precautions to keep them out as she had believed that she was too far from the river. The pond was wired to prevent herons from poaching the fish but this was not enough to keep the otters at bay.
Otters had been sighted in the river prior to the attack on the fish. Junette is warning everyone in the area who has a pond to secure it against invasion. Jacob Dew, a conservation officer for the Dorset Wild Rivers project, has said that he has received several calls from pond owners recently reporting suspected otter attacks on their fish.
Otters were once close to extinction in Dorset are now experiencing a renaissance following bans on hunting and pesticides. Habitats have also been improved to help the mammals to flourish.
Pond Owners within reach of the river will now have to cage or net their ponds with bite proof material if they are to protect their fish from these poachers.
Norfolk Otter Attack
Junette’s loss is far from unique. Last year an otter killed koi worth £10,000 belonging to Norfolk couple Anne and John Newiss. More than 50 of their prize fish were eaten including one specimen which they had owned for 32 years. At first they weren’t sure what was killing their fish but a late night vigil revealed that it was an otter. The culprit was spotted on the patio ready to pounce once more. The family have now installed a laser alarm system to protect their pond.
Killing the otters is not an option as this is punishable by a £5,000 fine or six months in prison. No matter how prized a koi specimen is, a criminal record is a high price to pay for trying to protect it.