Much-loved otter dies after getting trapped in illegal crayfish net

The otter killed in the crayfish net became well known for swimming up and down the River Wensum in

The otter killed in the crayfish net became well known for swimming up and down the River Wensum in Norwich. Credit: Phil Coles - Credit: Archant

A much-loved otter who has been swimming up and down the River Wensum in Norwich in recent months has died after becoming trapped in an illegal crayfish net.

The otter was found dead by a dog walker after she became trapped in a crayfish net. Credit: Richard

The otter was found dead by a dog walker after she became trapped in a crayfish net. Credit: Richard Miller - Credit: Archant

Local dog walker Phil Coles spotted a tethered crayfish net that had floated to the surface and he pulled it to shore, worried that birds or other wildlife could get stuck in it.

He then discovered the otter’s dead body, caught and trapped tightly around the netting.

In response, local wildlife youtuber Liam Smith has filmed a video telling the story of the otter.

Mr Coles said: “This young animal, that has brought happiness to so many, suffered a hideous death.

Phil Coles found the dead otter whilst out dog walking. Credit: Submitted

Phil Coles found the dead otter whilst out dog walking. Credit: Submitted - Credit: Archant


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“She no doubt spotted a crayfish in the net and pushed her way in for an easy meal, but got stuck.

“She would have fought to break free, panicking and gasping for breath. But the small net tightened its hold and she was powerless to escape.”

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In Norfolk, crayfish nets are illegal to use and in other parts of the UK they can only be used with a license, meaning the net should not have been used in the first place.

Mr Coles added: “Of course there are many responsible fishermen, operating with the appropriate licences and taking part in their sport because they enjoy the environment and the connection it brings to nature.

The otter became trapped in the tight crayfish net and slowly died as a result. Credit: Richard Mill

The otter became trapped in the tight crayfish net and slowly died as a result. Credit: Richard Miller - Credit: Archant

“Fishing can be done responsibly. But there are also a lot of people using the same stretch of river to fish illegally, looking for the quiet, out of sight banks, favoured by wildlife like the otter, where they can operate unseen.

“It’s a fantastic tribute to the health of Norfolk’s rivers that otters and other wildlife are becoming increasingly common sights in and around the city, but the needless death of this colourful character is also a call to action.”

Norfolk Rivers Trust project officer Jessie Leach added: “We’ve seen a big rise in trapping illegally since the start of lockdown, this kills our wildlife and can spread crayfish plague to other rivers.

“We must pursue collective environmental action together with organisations.

The dead otter being pulled out of the River Wensum. Credit: Richard Miller

The dead otter being pulled out of the River Wensum. Credit: Richard Miller - Credit: Archant

“We urge members of the public to report any incidences to the Environment Agency.”

The otter was much loved by walkers along the River Wensum. Credit: Richard Miller

The otter was much loved by walkers along the River Wensum. Credit: Richard Miller - Credit: Archant

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