ACTION for the River Kennet is calling for careful use of rat poison after an otter was found dead in Marlborough.
Charity Action for the River Kennet revealed the news today following a a toxicology report by Riverside Veterinary Centre on the otherwise healthy male otter.
The dog otter had suffered an acute bleed into the stomach and traces of the rodenticide, Brodifacouom, were found in his liver.
Two days before the otter’s death he had become a minor celebrity after a photograph of it posted on ARK’s Facebook page feeding on fish was viewed more than 12,500 times.
Local history author, Peter Marren, said: “One day a beautiful healthy otter in broad daylight: the sight of a lifetime. Two days later, the same otter stone dead, almost in the same place, with its liver full of rat poison someone left out.
"If we want the Kennet to be a safe haven for otters and other wildlife we need to be more careful about what we leave lying around.”
ARK’s Stonebridge project officer, Anna Forbes, said: “With only 2,000 otters in England it is terrible to think of them needlessly dying.
"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 50 times more dangerous to dogs compared to some other rat poisons.”
Rats are a problem in many areas of the West Country and ARK understands the need to control them, but urges anyone using rat poison to read the label and use bait boxes with the legal and appropriate bait, and not to place them close to the river.
Mrs Forbes said: “Other populations have declined catastrophically over the last 20 years because of pollution including organo-chlorine pesticides and habitat destruction as riverside areas are drained and cleared.
"Stonebridge Wild River Reserve provides an important protected habitat for otters and 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 poison to allow otters to thrive along our chalk stream.”
For more information about safe use of rat poison visit www.diy-pest-control.co.uk.