River Otters "Feasting" on Fish at Kootenay Trout Hatchery

A rainbow trout at the Kootenay Trout Hatchery that managed to escape one of the otters feeding attempts. (Supplied by Owen Schoenberger)

The Kootenay Trout Hatchery has lost approximately 150 to 200 fish after a family or river otters moved into the region and began eating most of the rainbow trout.

Owen Schoenberger, Manager of the Kootenay Trout Hatchery told Summit 107 that the family of otters has been residing near the hatchery for the past number of months, discovering the fish at the facility.

"We believe they're coming mostly out of the Kootenay River and then up Norberry Creek, and following the outflow of the hatchery, they've discovered our Kids Fishing Pond and also the display fish in the moat at the front of the hatchery."

Schoenberger estimates that the otters have eaten about 150 to 200 fish in the display moat as they are now down to countable numbers, with just over 50 fish left.

"They've kind of got the fish in a barrel scenario where they have the captive fish, rainbow trout mostly, anywhere from three to 20 pounds in the moat, and they've been feasting on them for a couple of months now."

Trying to taking preventative measures to stop the otters from grabbing an easy meal, they've installed grating at the shallow end of the display moat and blocked off the outfall as well to make it increasingly difficult for the otters to drag away the larger fish.

Schoenberger told Summit 107 that the loss of fish doesn't directly affect the Kootenay Trout Hatchery operationally but it does reduce the number of fish available for people to feed and view.

"The biggest impact for us is, these fish, they're quite big and they're not easy to replace because they're six, seven, eight years old," explained Schoenberger. "If they're all gone, we kind of have to start from scratch again with sort of one-year-old fish. We have fish but we don't have ready-to-go 10 to 15-pound fish to replace these moat fish with right now."

The Kootenay Trout Hatchery is one of six hatcheries under the Freshwater Water Fisheries Society of BC. Personally stocking about 120 lakes with trout in the East and West Kootenay every year, the Kootenay Trout Hatchery also attracts upwards of 10,000 visitors and tourists annually.

Rainbow trout at the Kootenay Trout Hatchery affected by the recent river otters that have moved in and attempted to eat the fish. (Photos Supplied by Owen Schoenberger)

Audio: Owen Schoenberger, Kootenay Trout Hatchery Manager (on preventative measures)

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