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Welcome back otter: Expert brought in to catch koi killer

Vancouver Park Board bringing in professional after traps fail to capture otter at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden
otter update
After its attempts to catch the rogue river otter eating the koi fish at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden failed this week, Vancouver Park Board made the decision to call in a professional. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Vancouver Park Board’s attempts to trap and relocate a wayward river otter eating up the koi at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden have failed so far this week, so staff has called in the big guns.

Howard Normann, director of parks, told media Friday morning that after consulting with the Ministry of Environment the park board decided to bring in a “professional animal relocation person, a specialist who deals with otters and mink, raccoons, that sort of thing.”

The otter was first spotted in the Chinatown garden on Sunday and has since eaten half of the resident koi population. Normann said staff at the garden told him the number of koi is down to seven from 14.

Park board staff had set out three traps throughout the garden this week in an attempt to catch and relocate the animal but the otter managed to take the bait and remain at large.

“The otter did visit our trap and took our fish and our tuna and our chicken. Unfortunately a small jam… prevented the trap from closing,” Normann said.

He said the professional otter wrangler will visit the garden some time Friday.

“They’ll be setting up a network of traps,” Normann said. “They’re quite confident if we’ve already had a positive experience with this otter visiting the traps that they’ll be able to capture the otter today or tonight, possibly.”

The initial plan was to relocate the otter somewhere else in the city as there are already otters living at different locations around Vancouver.

“I’ve learned a lot the last few days about otters in Vancouver,” Normann said. “There are other otters — Lost Lagoon has a family of otters, Vanier Park, along the Fraser. There’s lots of river otters already in Vancouver.”

However, Normann said, that plan has since changed and once caught the otter will head east.

“The recommendation is not to relocate into Vancouver,” he said. “The Ministry of Environment has recommended we take the otter out to the Harrison River or the Chilliwack or the Campbell, one of those locations… This is for the best chance for a happy life for this otter. Lots of food, lots of friends.”

Normann added that now that the otter knows there is food at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, if it is dropped off somewhere in the city it would likely just make its way right back to Chinatown.

The story of the rogue river otter and the plight of the koi has captured the city’s attention this week getting widespread media attention. Normann said he has fielded many suggestions on what the park board should do with the animal.

“I’ve heard everything from ‘Why don’t you just shoot the otter?’ to ‘Why don’t you bring more koi here and just keep feeding the otter?’ and everything in between,” he said.

“For us as a park board, it’s really just to look after the otter, to make sure it gets out of here safely.”