A wildlife-lover has described his horror at seeing a swan killed and disembowelled by three otters at Willen Lake in Milton Keynes.
WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES
The man says it is the third dead swan he has seen at the lake this year and is convinced the large colony of otters living in the nearby River Ouse have been the culprits each time.
He reported the latest casualty immediately to the Parks Trust, but claimed their official was “uncaring and dismissive.”
“He said it couldn’t have been otters and it must have been foxes that I saw killing the swan.
“I told him I certainly knew the difference between an otter and a fox. And the swan had clearly been killed in the water - how would a fox swim out to it? He then told me I was wasting his time.”
A keen fisherman, the man was walking around Willen Lake South on Tuesday morning when he saw the otters seize their prey.
“They’d dragged the swan out, ripped its head off and disembowelled it, eating its insides,” he said.
“As soon as I made a noise they shot off. But it was too late to save the poor swan.”
Otters are a protected species, and anybod who harms one can be fined or even face prison.
The downside of this protection is that they have bred into large colonies - which are wiping out the population of many fish in MK. As a result, otters are preying on swans and other birds, say anglers.
The Parks Trust is still denying otters were responsible, saying the swan was a casualty of the extreme icy weather and the otters were simply scavenging.
A spokesman said: “The dead swan found at Willen Lake on 6th March is almost certainly a victim of the recent extreme cold weather. It is likely that many birds of various species succumbed to the icy conditions. We have come across dead mallard, lapwing and buzzard in the parks over the last few days. All appear to have starved.
Most animals will scavenge when they are hungry, as it expends less energy than hunting, especially in times of extreme weather, where the mix of low temperatures, ice and snow has made the gathering of food difficult. In this case, the fact that the head was bitten off would indicate that a fox found the dead swan. Otters and other animals may have fed on the carcass. Otter do not prey on species as large as swans.
Otters are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and are a key species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Although the species has recovered they are still vulnerable to human disturbance and pollution. It is an offence to kill or injure an otter or deliberately disturb a known otter holt.”