A SPATE of Koi carp killings from ponds in Burbage and Pewsey have been blamed on descendants of mink freed by animal activists from fur farms in the 1990s.

The prized fish, with their distinctive patterns, began going missing 10 days ago with one owner losing £2,500 worth of Koi to the mysterious thief overnight.

Parts of the dead animals were seen strewn across gardens as residents were left wondering what animal could be behind the night-time disappearances.

Mike Tupman, who has lived in his home in Burbage High Street for 40 years, had four Koi carp taken from his pond.

The town crier for Marlborough, said: “I’ve owned some of these carp for 15 years. I used to feed them every day by hand as they would come to the surface.

“What I am slightly worried about is that if these animals are brave enough to go into ponds so close to houses, they might be dangerous to children.

“It is very annoying and bizarre that this has all happened in the last few days.”

It is now thought the animals behind the destruction could be direct descendants from thousands of mink freed in 1998 by the Animal Liberation Front from fur farms in Wiltshire.

Other prime suspects include otters, herons and grass snakes.

Gardeners have been urged to cover their ponds with a metal grid or set up infra-red motion cameras in a bid to catch the killers in the act.

Speaking about otters, which have been on the increase in Wiltshire, Steve Smailes, of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Feeding possibilities involve chiefly fish and, should an otter come across a pond stocked with fish, it will naturally be interested.

“This can be a particular problem for people with precious collections of Koi carp, which are both sizeable and highly visible.

“The mink, a smaller but related non-native mammal, will not pass up a fish supper if it finds one.”

Anna Forbes, the project manager for Action For The River

Kennet said: “It is likely to be heron, the fish that they eat are quite big.

“Grass snakes do eat fish and toads whole, however it is unlikely that they would leave any remains.

“I don’t think a grass snake would eat something as big as a Koi carp.”

The issue has been raised by people from as far as Westbury, with one woman losing an £800 prize Koi carp from a Frogmore Road pond.