Otter found dead by the River Kennet near Stonebridge Meadow was killed by rat poison
Two days after an otter had been photographed last month eating fish beside the River Kennet close to Marlborough's Stonebridge Meadow, it was found dead by a member of Action for the River Kennet (ARK.)
An initial investigation by the Riverside Veterinary Centre found that the healthy dog otter had probably been poisoned. Toxicology tests have now proved this to be correct: the otter was killed by the rat poison Brodifacouom.
Traces of the poison were found in the otter's liver. Brodifacouom - a very potent anti-coagulant - is extremely toxic to all mammals and is legally only certified for indoor use. It usually kills after a single dose.
Stonebridge Meadow is jointly owned by Marlborough Town Council and by ARK. An otter has been seen in the Meadow and one was picked up on ARK's camera trap there.
Anna Forbes, ARK's Stonebridge project officer, points out that there are only about 2,000 otters left in England: "It is terrible to think of them dying needlessly. Every year wild animals like otters and domestic pets like cats and dogs are killed by rat poison used recklessly or incorrectly."
"This particular poison is at least fifty times more dangerous to dogs compared to some other poisons used on rats."
ARK recognises that rats are a problem in many areas and understands the need to control them, but it urges anyone using rat poisons to read the label, use bait boxes and not place them near to the river.
Otter populations have declined catastrophically over the last twenty years mainly because of pollution - including the use of organo-chlorine pesticides. They have also fared badly as riverside areas are drained and cleared.
Anna Forbes says that Stonebridge Wild River Reserve provides an important protected habitat for otters: "It is a delight to see them using it. To find a poisoned otter so close to this safe haven is devastating."
"It is very important to spread the message about correct use of rat poisons - and allow otters to thrive along our chalk stream."