A bad omen? Another otter?

The tunnel trap partially-demolished by an otter?  Surprisingly this time it ate the rat in-situ rather than carrying it down the burn

The tunnel trap partially-demolished by an otter? Surprisingly this time it ate the rat in-situ rather than carrying it down the burn

I took delivery last week of eight new khaki Campbell ducks to augment the eight I already have and to replace nine killed by an otter over the winter. I had persuaded the otter to move on by removing its food supply: in other words keeping my ducks inside for five or six weeks till I was sure the otter had gone. My new ducks are doing well and should start to lay sometime about the beginning of August. All seemed to be well….

I keep a couple of tunnel traps set from mid-September till about now to deal with any rats that come about the place, catching roughly 30 or so over that period. The traps are set in narrow tunnels made from bricks with roof tiles on top.  I was thinking of lifting these traps but noticed yesterday morning that a rat had been caught in one, dead of course as these traps are designed to kill instantly. It was early morning and I was going to work so I thought I would leave it till today (Saturday) to remove the dead rat and lift the trap for the summer.

I went this afternoon to deal with the trap and the dead rat and found that the tunnel had been demolished and the rat had been completely eaten, not a scrap left. The options are dog, cat, fox, otter or mink. Dogs can’t get to where the trap is so they can be removed from the equation.  I would doubt a cat or a mink would be strong enough to demolish the tunnel so they can be discounted. I’ve never seen a fox – or any signs of one – in the garden so I think a fox is an unlikely culprit. That leaves the otter as number one suspect.

This is bad news for the ducks so I’ll need to be ultra-careful, letting them out slightly later in the morning and putting them in their shed earlier at night. I can only hope the otter was passing through and will not be back again. There are many advantages in living in the country but this is one of the disadvantages. I suppose if I lived in a town I might not manage to keep ducks in any case.

One of our female blackbirds is sitting on eggs again. It had an early clutch and the chicks fledged, helped to be fat wee fledglings by our regular feeding of the parents with mealworms.  A few days after fledging the parents stopped coming for mealworms and now the female is back in the same nest on eggs. I can only think that cats nabbed all the chicks in the short period between when they left the nest and when they were able to fly out of harm’s way. Strangely I can cope with an otter taking my (expensive) ducks since an otter is a wild creature but domestic cats taking young wild birds really infuriates me.



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