A river otter in British Columbia wanted for scarfing down numerous beloved koi from Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden might have fled the scene for good.
“We think it has left the garden,” the garden’s communications director, Debbie Cheung, told HuffPost in an email.
But that wasn’t before eating the majority of the pond’s adult koi. Last week the garden moved the remaining three adult fish to the Vancouver Aquarium to keep them safe from the otter, she said.
We are pleased to announce that we are hosting some V.I.K. (Very Important Koi) guests here at #VanAqua. They have quickly won over the hearts of aquarists, and we’re happy to support @VanGarden and @ParkBoard during this rescue mission. #OtterWatch2018 pic.twitter.com/hL4vB1Uhdp
— Vancouver Aquarium (@vanaqua) November 29, 2018
The garden also moved 344 juvenile koi, which had been largely hidden near the bottom of the pond by a layer of clay.
Cheung added that the koi are “in good hands” at the aquarium and that the garden is “monitoring the situation before putting any koi back in the pond.”
The otter was first spotted in the park late last month, and park officials began setting humane traps in hopes of catching and relocating the predator so the koi wouldn’t be on the menu.
This morning #VanParkBoard staff are at Sun Yat-Sen Garden working to find and relocate the local otter who’s recently begun fishing in the garden’s pond. The welfare of the otter and the pond’s iconic koi fish are our top priorities! @vangarden pic.twitter.com/bSKuWG6Ygc
— Vancouver Park Board (@ParkBoard) November 20, 2018
The long-lived koi are cherished by garden staff and visitors and hold important cultural significance for Vancouver’s Chinese community.
“We see the koi when we walk around the garden during the summer and we have the gong that we ring to call the koi for lunchtime,” garden spokeswoman Deanna Chan told CBC. “So it’s been tough to be finding their remains around the garden.”
One particularly well-known fish, named Madonna, was believed to be 50 years old before becoming one of the otter’s victims.
Despite efforts to catch and relocate the otter, the clever critter evaded the traps for days, managing to eat the bait in the traps without triggering them. It also continued snacking on koi. The decision to remove the remaining fish to their temporary refuge at the aquarium came after the otter ate at least 10 of the garden’s 14 adult koi.
No one has spotted the otter since the day staffers moved the fish, said Cheung. And while only time will tell if the otter will reappear ― especially after the fish are returned ― for now, it seems the otter has been able to make a getaway.
The otter-koi conflict led to people in Vancouver and beyond to start declaring loyalty to one animal or the other, pronouncing themselves as either Team Otter or Team Koi.