MORE than 20 valuable Koi, goldfish and other carp have been slaughtered by otters who have raided a fishpond at the 17th century Jacobean Manor in Steeple Ashton.

Owner John Aeberhard has warned other fishpond owners to beware after 22 fish were killed in raids on his pond.

He now has just eight fish left from a shoal of some 30 goldfish, koi and other carp – several of them worth hundreds of pounds.

Mr Aeberhard, 83, said: “I and my grandchildren are very upset, as the fish all had names.

“At first, we thought the culprit was a heron since we have had a couple of heron raids in the past and have had two herons caught in the heron wires that we installed above and around the perimeter of our pond.

“Our gardener suggested it could have been otters as herons swallow the fish they catch whole, whereas the dead fish that were left scattered around our pond had been partly chewed with heads and tails missing.

“A phone call to Koi Carp in Melksham confirmed that otter raids had been reported in Westbury and other surrounding areas.”

“Evidently the recent heavy rainfall filling ditches locally have made it easy for semi aquatic otters to travel cross country.”

Otters were once common in the UK during the1950s but then went into a decline and their numbers reached a low point in the 1980s.

They are now recovering strongly and are again active in the west Wiltshire area with raids also being reported on fishponds in the Atworth, Shaw and Whitley areas.

Mr Aeberhard, who lives at the Manor with his wife Penny and family, added: “The fishpond at the Manor here in Steeple Ashtonbears witness to this.

“Until a few weeks ago we had a shoal of some 30 goldfish, koi and other carp. Now wehave just eight left.

“So as well as heron wires, we’ve now installed electric wires around our pond.Fortunately, our surviving fish were mostly the largest, including our monster fish Hoover much to the relief of our grandchildren.

“As cute as they may look, otters are in reality vicious fish killers, so all local fishpond owners should beware.

“They come unseen through the night and the early hours of the morning.”