The mystery of disappearing fish at Otter Garden Centres in Ottery St Mary has been solved after eagle eyed team members spotted an unexpected visitor.
It began after a large Koi carp went missing from the onsite pond in the plant area. Two days’ later, another disappeared. After a third vanished, part of its remains were found hidden nearby.
Otter’s fish expert Jim Walker inspected the pond and scoured the surrounding area, finding what he was certain were otter paw prints in the earth. He said:
“We couldn’t believe that an otter had the brass to come into the garden centre at night for a dip in the pond and a tasty supper!”
Investigations continued, including checks at the replacement fence at the back of the nursery area which, in keeping with Otter’s wildlife policy, has two badger gates which allow badgers and foxes to move freely but keep rabbits out.
“It seemed unlikely that an otter would make all the effort to come up to the site from the river, use the badger gate and walk the distance to the pond just to find food.”
Then the otter was spotted twice making his escape after further daring night-time raids on the pond, once by a member of the night security team and then by a team member walking into work from the town at around 7.30am.
So Jim netted the remaining fish and took them to a different pond offsite to keep them safe.
“We realised we couldn’t just leave the Koi in the pond, waiting for the otter to come back and help themselves to another late night supper.
“We’ll leave the pond empty for a few months before we make a decision about whether it’s safe to bring the Koi back. It’s a real shame as so many customers – especially children – love watching these beautiful fish in the spring and summer months. But it’s hard to argue with nature.”
Overall, the garden centre team feel it’s a positive thing to have had sightings of otters and to know they are living close by in the river.
“We just have to hope that when the weather improves they will stay in the river and stop the night time visits to the Koi pond in search of midnight snacks!”