A young otter, which became a “much-loved local character”, has been found dead in an illegal crayfish trap.
Wildlife film-maker Phil Coles discovered its body as he removed a net he spotted tethered on the River Wensum in Norwich while walking his dog.
He said: “This young animal, which has brought happiness to so many, suffered a hideous death.”
The Rivers Trust said the number of illegal traps had risen during lockdown and urged people to report incidents.
Mr Coles said: “This cocky, confident young otter has been delighting observers all along the Wensum from the city centre to Earlham but on Friday, the much-loved local character was found dead.”
He said the dead otter and the net were collected by the Environment Agency, which was investigating.
Jessie Leach, from Norfolk Rivers Trust, said: “We’ve seen a big and unacceptable rise in trapping illegally since the start of lockdown.
“This kills our wildlife and can spread crayfish plague to other river catchments and so we do urge members of the public to report any incidents to the Environment Agency.”
Permission from the Environment Agency is needed to trap crayfish in England and the rare, native white-clawed species is protected by law.
“There are strict rules about the design and size of crayfish traps because they can harm other wildlife,” its website said.