We’ve seen a number of stories about otters raiding garden ponds for fish. Otters are protected by law and it is a criminal offence to capture, injure, kill or deliberately disturb wild otters. However, there are some ways garden pond owners can protect their ponds if they suspect otters are eating their fish. We’ve joined forces with the UK Wild Otter Trust to come up with information on otters and suggest some simple proactive measures that can be taken to help reduce or prevent predation on pond fish.

What you can do

Garden pond fish are at greatest risk of being predated upon by otters during the winter months. However, there are a number of simple proactive measures which pond fish keepers can take to protect their fish from predation, such as:

  • As a winter measure (when hedgehogs should be hibernating), ensure that your garden has been secured e.g. no gaps in fencing
  • Consider placing heavy gauge mesh over your pond during the winter months.
  • Do not use normal pond netting as this will not be effective.
  • Note that otters can squeeze through a 100mm gap.
  • Outside lights may deter predators.
  • At present, sonic devices are untested to the frequencies of an otter’s hearing range.
  • Simple one strand, low voltage electric fencing place around the edge of your pond may help. An otter’s fur does not provide any protection against low voltage electricity. However, be aware that if an otter is extremely hungry, it will be willing to take more of a risk in order to reach a food source.
  • If the fish in your pond are predated upon and you notice dead fish, move any surviving fish to a holding pond, to leave your main pond empty.
  • Do not restock your pond straight away if it is affected by predators.

The Angling Trust also has some useful information on its website for commercial fish farmers and fishing establishments.

Have you been affected?

The UK Wild Otter Trust are currently undertaking a project collecting data on pond predation by otters in order to build up a geographical picture of where these incidents are occurring in the UK.

If your garden pond has been affected by otter predation and you can assist in this study, please provide the UK Wild Otter Trust with the information as below:

  • Your location (ideally a map grid reference or just general area. Please do not provide your address).
  • The type of fish which have been predated upon.
  • How many fish have been predated upon.

Please forward this information to the UK Wild Otter Trust directly.

Email: otters@ukwot.org

Telephone: 01598 760585 or 07866 462820.

Many thanks to the UK Wild Otter Trust for the photo.