ROGUE otters have plundered thousands of pounds worth of koi carp from ornamental fishponds in homes near the River Kennet.

A spate of fish disappearances in properties neighbouring the river have fish lovers wringing their hands in despair as their prized carp are proving easy pickings.

Leo Pocock woke up one morning to find he had lost four of his valuable koi at his home in the centre of Pewsey.

"I've been keeping fish for at least 25 years, and have never seen an otter until now," he said.

"They took an 18 inch long siroutsuri - type of black and white carp - and worth hundreds of pounds.

"I lost £1,500 worth of fish, but it isn't about the money. I've had them since they were tiny, and I see them and feed them twice a day - like you would a cat."

He isn't alone in bolstering his pond defences with tighter mesh. Other garden pond owners across Pewsey Vale have reported that their ponds have also been plundered.

"Otters will make the most of fish in ponds, if the ponds are not sufficiently protected," said Anna Ford of Action for the River Kennet.

"To an otter, fish in a pond are much easier pickings than hunting wild fish in a flowing river.

"We are very lucky to have otters on the Kennet. They been around for quite a few years.

"They are a native apex predator - so at the top of the food chain - and part of the river ecosystem."

The conservation group has carried out water vole surveying on the River Kennet and whilst looking for water vole field signs, came across otter spraints (otter poo).

Otters are a protected species. They will often visit between dusk and dawn, though feed during the day too.

They can attack at any time of year, though the winter months seem to be higher risk.

They are known to have good senses of smell and hearing.