Otters devour Lewes garden’s prized koi

When a Lewes couple realized something had devoured all the fish and frogs in their garden pond, they went to work to find the culprit. 

Turns out their pond was a smorgasbord for local river otters.

“We finally have accepted that a pond with fish is not a good idea. Instead of constantly wrestling with protecting fish from wildlife that are just trying to live another day, we are choosing to coexist with our neighbors. We accepted that we’d enjoy the pond, its vegetation and waterfalls without fish and are now excited that there are river otters right here in our backyard,” said Morty Bachar, who up until recently had a 40-koi garden pond in the Hawkseye community. 

Bachar and his wife Patty Storms had created a 3,000-gallon pond with koi, frogs and other wildlife, which was featured on the 2021 Lewes Garden Tour.

One recent morning, the couple went out to their pond decking and found the severed heads of several large koi fish. At that point, the Bachars said they knew the offender was a night predator, but they didn’t know what it was.

Although they immediately covered the pond with a net, the next morning they found the same thing had happened to some of the remaining fish.

The couple then placed a few cameras and secured the net even better, but the following day, all the fish and frogs were gone.

“We have been successful with protecting the fish in our pond for over six years. We used motion-sensor sprinklers, deep pond design with vertical walls, fish protective caves, video cameras that make noise when a mammal or flying predator approaches. We have seen evidence of raccoons, egrets, herons, hawks, owls, outdoor cats, snakes and foxes trying to get the fish unsuccessfully,” said Morty.

This time was different, though, he said. 

“The culprits, captured on video, are river otters, with no way to stop them. After many deep breaths, we remembered where we lived. We also remembered that it is a treat to witness all this nature, despite them making a meal of our fish pets that are worth thousands of dollars. Money isn’t the issue, though; we loved these fish, and they had been a part of our lives for years. It’s just really devastating,” he said.