This week we caught an intrepid night-time intruder on camera; stealing fish from the Italian Garden pond!
“I was first alerted to the fact that our fish were going missing back in November, when gardeners reported finding fish scales around the ponds in the Jungle” explains Claire Pumfrey, Heligan’s Wildlife Project Co-ordinator.
Claire reacted to the news by setting up camera traps in the Jungle and Lost Valley. Although signs of night time activity and missing fish remained in evidence, no footage was captured of the elusive perpetrator.
Then in March, gardeners found even more fish scales and discovered that the Italian Garden pond was now void of any fish. Undeterred, Claire once again set up camera traps in this historic garden location; after re-stocking the pond with more fish of course!
After ten days of patient surveillance Claire was delighted to capture the thief in the act!
“I was thrilled to finally see our fish stealing visitor – a beautiful resident male otter. We had already identified otter spraint throughout the gardens’ watercourses and the tell-tale fish scales and ever decreasing fish populations were all pointing to an otter. To finally see him though is rare and real treat.”
Back in 2009, staff at the gardens had identified a male otter taking an early morning dip in the Northern Summerhouse pond. However, this is not thought to be the same otter caught on camera this week, as although otters can live up to ten years, the average life span is only five.
Heligan’s estate and watercourses are home to a plethora of wildlife including kingfishers, owls, bats, badgers and now otters! Once the live location for BBC Springwatch barn owls, Heligan has often pioneered the way in bringing resident wildlife to an ever increasing and engaged visiting audience.
“Although it’s highly unlikely that visitors are ever going to see our resident otter for themselves, we are pleased to be able to share with them this footage and further their understanding of this beautiful creature. There’s a secret life to the Lost Gardens that only occurs once the visitors and staff have gone home for the night” adds Claire.