Tarka the innocent

For a group who are supposed to enjoy communing with nature and merging into the environment, anglers show a lot of aggression towards wildlife. I’ve already written about cormorants and how fishermen want to reach for the 12-bore whenever they see these dark satanic birds over their favourite fishery. But otters are equally despised, especially now that their numbers are on the rise.

As usual, anglers typically have little clue about wildlife in the country. Just as they’re ignorant of the cormorants lifecycle and history, the most they know about otters is that they have whiskers — oh, and live on a diet of fish. One common myth is that there is a group of nefarious illegal otter releasers going about the country and tipping furry fiends into any carp lake they can find. Do they suppose there is somewhere a great otter farm run by fish-hating breeders?

Social media allows the dark thoughts of such anglers to see the light of day. On Fakebook, the Chris Yates Fan Club, otherwise known as the Passion for Angling Group, has had its carpy waters ruffled by a discussion on the monster that rustled a member’s koi carp from his garden pond. Chief suspect according to other members is Tarka, on holiday from a bright water somewhere. An assortment of uninformed views follow which assert that otters need culling, controlling, trapping, and so on, all of which are illegal as the otter is a protected species and may not be interfered with in any way. Only one person in the group seems to appreciate that otters are an indigenous species that is reoccupying its rightful place in the environment.

It only takes a short bit of research to understand this. Otter populations were wiped out in most of the UK due to the widespread use of organic pesticides, highly toxic chemicals that were harmful to many other animals too. Limited introductions did take place in the 80s and 90s, mostly in East Anglian rivers, a total of 117 to its rivers. The last release was over 20 years ago. Not the ‘hundreds and hundreds’ wildly guessed at by one of the Facebookers. Since then otters have spread naturally; no longer hunted or poisoned they are thriving and eating fish, amongst other things, including signal crayfish.

Not surprisingly this has, in certain situations, brought them into conflict with angling. Yet rivers with otters — which includes all of those I fish — have good stocks and plenty to catch. If there were no fish there would be no otters. Artificial carp ponds full of heavyweight lumbering fish are more vulnerable because they offer an easy bellybuster meal. The effective solution here is to fence, which sensible owners do. All the posturing by anglers who claim there are too many otters, that they are constantly being released, that they are vampires with whiskers and rampant killers, sounds ludicrous; such people should inform themselves better. You can even look a fool on Facebook.

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