TWO holidaying teenagers were horrified to find a dead otter caught in an illegal crayfish trap on the shores of Loch Ken on Saturday.
Iona Anderson, 14, and 13-year-old Polly Megginson made the discovery after going for a walk near Loch Ken Marina.
A research project into the crayfish problem on the loch is currently being carried out, but the organisation involved in the scheme claims the otter was not caught in one of their traps.
Warnings have now been issued to stop people from setting “irresponsible” traps without a licence in case more wildlife is killed.
Iona, who is from Ayr, and Polly, who is from Yorkshire, had been using the marina while enjoying a holiday in the area. The pair went for a walk on Saturday afternoon when they made the gruesome discovery.
Polly said: “I went for a walk in the water and then came back onto the beach. I wondered why there was a rock stuck in a crayfish trap, but Iona said it wasn’t a rock, it was an otter.
“It was quite a shock, it had wire wrapped around its stomach.”
Iona added: “It was washed up on the shore like a rock. It was disgusting and it stank.”
A countryside ranger and local police officers were called to investigate and wildlife liaison officer Simon Kennedy said: “We are disappointed that this has happened and we would discourage anyone from trapping in this way as it is irresponsible.”
The ‘News’ reported last week that over 35,000 North American signal crayfish had been trapped in a two week period and that more traps were being set in the next few weeks as part of a Scottish Government research programme into the crayfish problem.
The Galloway Fisheries Trust are involved in the research and senior fisheries biologist, Jamie Ribbens, claims the trap is not one of theirs – and is therefore illegal.
He explained: “The only legal trapping for crayfish in Loch Ken at present is the research project so the trap must have been set illegally. The dead otter and trap were found in a part of the loch which has not yet been trapped as part of the research project.
“All traps being used in the research project have individual identification tags fitted.
“The traps being used in the research project are ‘otter friendly’ and approved for use in the UK.”
Dumfries and Galloway Council are also involved in the research and Stewart Cameron, access officer east, said: “It does sound like illegal trapping. All our traps I’m assured are otter proof. It is illegal to trap crayfish on Loch Ken and if people don’t know what they are doing then this is what happens.”
Paul Yoxon, head of operations with the International Otter Survival Fund, said: “We deal with a number of cases of otters getting caught in lobster pots but not in crayfish traps. It was probably going in for the crayfish.”