Predator kills 350 fish in garden pond

MINK were today blamed for targeting a family's pond killing 350 fish in a fortnight.Owner Martin Downes had collected the fish over 14 years - many of them Christmas and birthday presents from his family- and he has been left heartbroken by the daily carnage.

Richard Cornwell

MINK were today blamed for targeting a family's pond killing 350 fish in a fortnight.

Owner Martin Downes had collected the fish over 14 years - many of them Christmas and birthday presents from his family- and he has been left heartbroken by the daily carnage.

One morning the family found 40 koi and golden orfe littered around the edge of the pond at their home in Ferry Road, Old Felixstowe, all dead and mutilated, with chunks bitten out of them.

So far the mystery killer has caused £2,500 of damage and virtually killed off the pond's fishstock, but attempts to trap or deter the animal have so far failed.

Mr Downes, a former director and part owner of Loadwell Transport, who is now a lorry driver said: “I just feel it could be a mink - an expert in mink told me the killings bear all its hallmarks.

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“If it was an otter it would eat more and leave less mess lying around. A fox would only take one or two if desperate.

“It's a real mess - the pond is devastated and it's horrible to keep finding dead fish every day.

“A lot of the fish have been badly damaged and have lost bits of their tails or had bites taken out of their sides.

“The pond has sheer walls so I am pretty certain it's not a fox or a cat, and I have had problems with heron before so I use netting to keep them away and we seem to have them beat.

“My house though is right on the edge of the countryside and I just think mink could be nesting nearby and coming in here at night to attack the fish.”

Mr Downes said he and his wife Sue and two of their four children, Emma, 14, and Steve, 20, had discovered the fish dumped around the pond edge.

He said: “Whatever caught them had got in under the net as I've set the net higher than the edging stones - which seems a major error now.”

The pond measures 16ft by 18ft and is well-established, and had 365 fish - car Asian, koi carp sarasa comets, goldfish, golden orfe and ghost kio.

He has put down three baited friendly traps - one in the water and two out of it - and lowered the water level to make it harder for the predator to get in and out.

He added: “We have never had anything like this before. I just don't know what to do for the best - I could put up electric fencing, but it's a lovely wildlife area and I don't want to scare off squirrels, cats, birds and other creatures which drink from the water.

“We only have three fish left. Otherwise it's an empty water feature.”

Have you had problems with mink attacking fish - what's the solution? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Mink

American mink - which look much like ferrets - were originally brought to the UK for fur farming in the 1920s, with a peak of around 700 mink farms by the 1960s.

Before mink fur went out of fashion, there had already been confirmed breeding in the wild, and a combination of escapes and deliberate releases during the 1960s and 70s increased the spread of the creatures throughout the country.

Experts estimates the mink population in Britain could be as high as 110,000 animals.

Mink feed on fish and frogs, moorhens and ducks, rabbits and rats, and water voles.

They do hunt on land, preying upon small mammals and birds, but are expert hunters in the water - eating a wide variety of fish, occasionally indulging in surplus killing, taking a large number of prey at one time.

They can live ten to 12 years and will have a litter of four to five once a year.