A night-time thief has been causing a splash in Cockermouth garden ponds.
Homeowners say they have given up keeping fish in their gardens after they were repeatedly stolen.
But it is no ordinary thief targeting their much-loved aquatic pets – residents have put down the incidents to a hungry otter.
Rosie and Robert Broadbent have recently had the garden of their Vicarage Lane home landscaped, with a stone pond as the centrepiece.
Rosie said: “My husband is very poorly and so we decided to have the work done as a bit of a cheer up, instead of going on holiday.
“We both enjoy being outside and love fish. They’re lovely to watch, very relaxing.”
One night their 11 fish disappeared. They bought a cover and restocked the
pond with 13 fish. “One day we came out and thought they were hiding. Then we realised something had gone under the cover and taken the lot,” said Mrs Broadbent.
Garry Foster, of Simonscales Lane, dug his slate pond which, with its selection of water features, is his pride and joy. He lost 12 fish earlier this year and presumed it was down to a heron.
Keen to protect future fish, the Leslie Cleeland worker installed a reinforced net which made it difficult for even him to reach the water.
He said: “I put in six lovely koi carp. They were fine for a while then one morning I came down to total devastation. All the fish had gone, even a massive one which was 18 inches long.”
Someone suggested it might be a mink, so he set some humane traps. “A few days later the dreaded predator came back. It triggered the traps, bit through the netting and left a large arch in the wire. It was too big for a mink so I’m now certain it’s an otter.”
Other people nearby have had their fish taken, with Garry aware of thefts from Marvejols Park and Oaktree Crescent.
He said: “I know there are some otters in the cemetery which is not far. I like wildlife but now I have a lovely pond with no fish and a pet otter!”
Rosie and Robert also think it is the work of on otter but have yet to come up with a way to outwit it.