“Wildlife Film Maker Killed by Otter – from Sleep Deprivation”
|28yrs old and a family treasure - killed by an otter in mid afternoon|
I can believe the headline because I’m that victim. The time is 02.45 and the otter is just outside the window right now, eating the last of our golden orfe. I have tried to keep it away with a six foot fence and by lighting the pond, even shining a torch at the ‘playful’ little otter as it runs around our garden but every night this last week it has found a way in, keeping me awake in my futile attempts to protect our fish. It’s all over now, the last fish has just been eaten, I’m exhausted and the otter will go hungry.
|just nine inches long - poor little fish|
|the children's pet fish|
|just orful - sorry - sick joke|
|a prize rudd left for dead|
It is distressing and sad when fish that have grown up as our children’s pets are killed, especially when a healthy ecosystem is destroyed. The pond was a vibrant haven of life, native fish such as rudd breeding successfully, weed growth flourishing, the surface alive with dragonflies, damselflies and even mayflies, aquatic life flourishing, fed on by mallard ducklings and minnows dived on by kingfishers. Now it’s all gone and the situation is deeply disturbing.
|home sweet home or otter heaven?|
|a wildlife haven|
|under siege last year|
|the remains of a once vibrant ecosystem - heartbreaking|
The final act was when the otter absolutely trashed the place, ripping up lilies in order to eat the last few minnows. I feel sympathy for an otter that is so hungry it has to hunt minnows. I also realise that my losses are nothing compared to those that are trying to make a living running carp fisheries and farming fish. There are big problems out there and I naturally ask why?
|chomping on a grayling c. Stewart Canham|
It’s easy to suggest that the increase in the numbers of otters leading to competition for territory and food is a contributory factor and more than likely it is. For a more significant cause look no further than the cormorant, emptying the River Stour of silver fish so that this young otter just outside my window tonight has had to travel a mile from the river, over the A31, up a little stream across the fields and over a six foot fence just to look for something to eat.
|an Anglers Mail report - the dangers are real|
Adding to the problem is the 95% decline in eel numbers, a favourite food of otters. We can’t change the fact that otters are fish eaters and that they are hungry. We can only hope that the government changes the law regarding the right to protect our rivers and lakes from the ravages of the hordes of hungry cormorants.
|as appearing in the RSPB's Birds Magazine|
If we accept the scientific evidence that each of the 23,000 cormorants that travel from the continent each winter eat a pound of fish a day, then it is also easy to accept that removing 23,000 pounds of our native wildlife a day every day throughout the winter is surely un-sustainable, especially in the long term. It is already having a detrimental effect on our biodiversity.
Then we have the non-native signal crayfish destroying fish recruitment by eating their eggs, an Oxford University Study on the Thames calculating that there are 10,000 crays per half mile of river. Now that is simply depressing.
|Red for danger c. Stewart Canham|
|one down, millions to go c. Ton Dopp|
|the king of fishers c. Charlie Hamilton James|
|down the hatch c. Roger Cresswell|
Being a lover of all wildlife, I wrote to the RSPB’s Chief Executive, Mike Clarke. I have been a member for over fifty years and ran their Film Unit for five years but when I described what was happening out there and the loss of fish eating birds, [three local pairs of Great Crested Grebes for starters], he as good as told me I was lying. In fact, despite telling me so, he had no evidence that grebes weren’t in decline because when I checked with the British Trust for Ornithology they told me that there hasn’t been a breeding survey since 1975. I was disappointed by his dismissive attitude and alarmed that just because it’s got feathers, he’s prepared to invent facts to protect the cormorants’ reputation. I reminded him that there are lots of fish eating species out there and some might already be struggling through lack of prey.
|big but thin as a rake, caught on a 10mm boilie while barbeling|
|predator eats predator|
|bitterns c. Val Smith|
|big bills but lovely birds c. Niall Benvie|
Sadly, we have to accept that most wildlife enthusiasts aren’t even aware that fish life is wildlife and that it plays an important part in our freshwater ecosystems. It’s up to us anglers to join the conservationists, to change their attitudes, to educate them about life underwater … and the sooner we do so the better. As a contribution, the attached film attempts to explain some of the facts. I plan to do a lot more, but this is a start … and don’t knock me for suggesting that the return of the otter is a conservation success story with few parallels because it is. The otter is a problem because the freshwater environment is in trouble and they are hungry but you have to accept that most folk are excited if they see one and so am I, even in the garden! It’s a shame for all of us that because we have filled the countryside with carp, they’ve become the otters’ favourite food.
|one of our big carp - pulled out of the pond into the stream|
|another night of killing|
As many of you are aware, the thing that has upset a lot of anglers is the thoughtless release of large numbers of captive bred otters into an ecosystem that might not be able to support them, especially after the 95% decline in eels. There should be a law in place that allows Natural England to insist on an ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ before any release to protect the balance of nature and the otters, because the increasing incidents of otters killing each other due to lack of space is alarming. Deaths on roads have increased a lot too. Releasing an apex predator into the wild should require a license. We should push for that, not seek to control their numbers and shoot ourselves in the foot. No one will condone the killing of otters, however valid it appears to be.
Otters are one of the UK’s most popular animals and my wife Sue suggests that I may be partially responsible because in 1982 I made the first ever film on wild otters for BBC1. It attracted an audience of a staggering 17.3 million and it’s ironic that they were so rare then that I had to travel all the way to Shetland to film them. Now one is outside in the garden, eating the last of our fish.
|great animals but trouble for fish c. Stewart Canham|
Everyone is claiming that no further releases are taking place but it seems clear that this is a lie. Now there is a report that otters are having re-productive problems due to hormone disrupting chemicals in the water. So maybe the much celebrated return of the otter is reaching a natural watershed? There are no easy answers!