The Kootenay Trout Hatchery is no longer dealing with problem otters after the animals were relocated to a location outside of the Kootenay watershed last year.
In June of 2019, the hatchery in the Fort Steele area was reporting devastated fish populations after a group of pesky otters was found persistently attacking the prized fish in the hatchery’s moat. Approximately 150 fish were devoured by the otters and many were also left wounded or scarred.
Hatchery Manager Owen Schoenberger explained that three otters were live trapped and relocated by Conservation Officers after every effort was made to stop them from attacking the trout.
Staff at the hatchery had blocked off some of the access to the moat and installed fish proof panels so the otters couldn’t drag the fish out.
“We first removed the fish from the moat to our rearing container, which got rid of the otters’ food source,” Schoenberger explained. “After every effort was made to stop them, Conservation Officers decided it would be best to relocate the otters. They live trapped a brother and sister, and several days later captured another male. They were taken to a location outside of the Kootenay watershed.”
He adds that at first Conservation Officers were reluctant to relocate the otters, but ended up changing their minds.
Since the relocation, Schoenberger said that the otters haven’t been spotted back at the hatchery. No other otters have made an appearance either, he said.
“We kept the injured fish in the back pond, they had some wounds and some scars. We treated them with a special bath which was successful and we returned them to the moat,” Schoenberger said. “The fish are doing quite well now, and we’re well stocked especially after putting in extra yearlings.”
He says that at this time, there are approximately 30 to 40 15 pound rainbow trout, and several hundred one to two pound rainbows at the hatchery.
“It was good news to see the populations back up and the fish recovered,” said Schoenberger.
He adds that there are still lots of fish to feed at the hatchery, and the learn to fish pond is well stocked.
The Kootenay Trout Hatchery is run by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC. The society owns and operates six major fish hatcheries in Duncan, Abbotsford, Summerland, Clearwater, Fort Steele and Vanderhoof.
According to their website, the hatcheries raise and release over six million trout, char, and kokanee salmon into 800 lakes across the province.
The stocking program in the Kootenays will begin once the ice has melted off the lakes, around the end of April, and will run until mid-June.
The local hatchery also hosts a variety of different programs including learn to fish programs, educational field trips, research and fish health.