The otter captured by Jill Barnes’s night vision camera
A NATURE lover who set up a camera to keep an eye on her garden pond has captured amazing footage of an otter’s night-time visits.
Jill Barnes first set up a night-vision CCTV camera after a heron started preying on the fish in the large pond at her Mangotsfield home, to check whether some line placed around her pond to stop the bird from wading in was effective.
Cameras in her garden have captured badgers, foxes, a kingfisher – and even rats attacking frogs.
But Jill, who runs hardware shop Staple Hill Stores, was taken aback when she first glimpsed the sleek shape of the otter slipping into the 30ft by 15ft pond late one night in January.
It plunged in and out of the pond hunting for fish as Jill watched the screen. Her cat had a closer encounter and can be seen watching the otter in the background of some of the footage.
The otter visited Jill’s garden three times in three weeks, with eight days between each visit, in January and February.
There were around 35 to 40 fish living in the pond before it arrived – but Jill has only been able to locate a few of them since.
She said: “It’s really lovely to see an otter, and it’s nature – they’ve got to eat.
“If anyone had told me otters were there, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Jill’s garden near Westerleigh Road is close to a waterway that eventually runs into Leap Valley, from where a stream flows into the River Frome at Moorend.
After sharing the footage on Facebook she has been contacted by people reporting otter visits elsewhere near the Frome, from Frenchay to Yate, including people who have also lost fish.
Some posters also discussed the best way to deter otters, from pond coverings to electric fencing.
David Webb, the founder of the UK Wild Otter Trust, said: “Otters are quite common in and around Bristol.
“They have a territory of 10 to 14 km for females and up to 40 km for males, so the range is high.
“Naturally, they will use the whole area for hunting.
“Electric fencing is a preventative measure but in garden ponds it may not be effective, as the areas are small – and the fur of an otter is insulated against electric!
“People need to avoid restocking any ponds for at least six months.”
David warned against anyone trying to harm an otter.
He said: “Otters have the highest level of protection of any species.
“To disturb, harm or kill them carries an unlimited fine and a maximum of six years in prison.”
For more advice and information on otters, email email@example.com or visit the ukwildottertrust.org website.