A DORSET fishery owner who shot an otter in the head with a rifle has been jailed in the first prosecution of its kind in the UK.

Stuart Jones killed the protected Eurasian otter, which had been eating his valuable fish, in front of horrified guests at his campsite and fishery.

The 54-year-old, who owned and lived at Lyons Gate Campsite and Fishery in Dorchester at the time of the offence, had set traps for otters that had been emptying his four fishing lakes of carp, worth up to £40,000 each.

Campsite guests reported the slaughter to the authorities.

Jones was prosecuted for killing a wild protected animal under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations Act 2017 and for setting a trap for a protected animal under the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981.

He was jailed for two months by a judge at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Afterwards Dave Webb, founder of the UK Wild Otter Trust, said it was the first case of its kind in the UK and he was 'over the moon' with the outcome.

The court heard that Jones found the carnivorous creatures a nuisance at his fishery and had 'planned their demise'.

Victoria Hill, prosecuting, said the offence happened in July last year after anglers spotted the same otter swimming in the lake before it got out and disappeared into a wooded area.

Shortly afterwards another fisherman caught the otter in a net and shouted for someone to get Jones.

Miss Hill said: "They became aware the defendant was trying to trap otters because they were on the lakes and eating his fish.

"They thought it was being caught to be relocated but when the defendant arrived with his wife and daughter he was carrying a rifle.

"He pulled the bolt back on the rifle, put it to the back of the otter's head and pulled the trigger.

"The otter seemed to thrash a few times and then it was deceased."

A report from Mr Webb described the execution as "barbaric and inhumane".

Jones pleaded guilty to the two counts of killing and trapping a protected species.

The court heard Jones had run the fishery for 17 years but has recently sold the business and is no longer involved at all.

Jamie Porter, defending, said: "He found the otter a nuisance, as chicken farmers find foxes and cattle farmers find badgers.

"He had rather a lot of otters on the site at that time, at least three, and clearly wasn't thinking clearly when he took the action he took."

Judge Stephen Climie said: "You had planned the demise of this otter and had set up your own makeshift traps. You were aware that it was illegal to trap and/or kill this species but despite that knowledge you continued with the plan you had.

"You went with one clear intention in mind to kill that otter. Your motivation was both financial and reputational."