A SURPRISE thief who stole fish from a Huntington pond was caught in the act after the owner set a night-vision camera trap.

York dad Steve Russell, a software engineer, found a large dead fish near his pond two weeks ago, followed the next night by two more, one of which had been decapitated.

He also noticed that of the 16 fish he thought he had in his pond, only two fish were coming up at feeding time. Ominously, one large koi, named Big Bad Barry, was not seen at all.

Concerned and curious, Mr Russell set up a camera.

York Press:

Joshua beside the pond - he now wants to add a shark to scare away the intruder

He said: “Initially I thought that a local cat was maybe to blame, but the pond was netted with a heavy-duty nylon and it showed no signs of damage.

“I screwed more timber down to secure that and, as I was intrigued, I also set up an old CCTV camera, running through a VHS recorder into a laptop with iSpy motion capture software.

“The first night the camera caught a black cat with distinctive white paws walking past. It didn't show any interest in the pond whatsoever. It wasn't our thief.”

Some more false captures followed, triggered by moths and swaying reeds. Then Mr Russell tweaked the trigger settings and again set the camera trap.

And here's what he caught.... an otter!

Mr Russell said: “It's amazing that we get otters in our garden - but less than great that we lost our fish.”

Mr Russell lives in Huntington with his partner Wendy and their son Joshua, 5, who attends Huntington Primary Academy. Although initially enthused about their night-time visitor, Joshua later said he wanted to put a shark in the pond to scare it away.

York Press:

Mr Russell with his son Joshua and wife Wendy

Mr Russell said: “I'll probably take this opportunity to clean the pond and replace the timbers around the edge, place a more heavy duty wire mesh on and restock with fish. I’ll perhaps test it with smaller fish first to see if the otter is still living in the area.

“I read that otters can forage for several kilometres for food. This one may have been displaced from its usual river home and be travelling across the area looking for somewhere else to live.

“We love nature and have logpiles for bugs and amphibians, installed a hedgehog house and nestboxes around the garden to attract wildlife.”