Despite clear warnings not to feed the animals at a Tennessee nature park, human food is the suspected cause of this “cheerful creature’s” death.
If you have visited Bays Mountain Park before the end of May and glimpsed in at the otter habitat, you would have seen a young brown river otter, named Otto, entertaining the park’s visitors.
**Update: We're sad to say that Otto did not make it. Please see our page for more details.Our resident otter is being…
The orphaned otter had been a popular fixture at the nature preserve in Kingsport, Tennessee. Sadly, by the end of Thursday, May 30, 2019, Otto’s enclosure was empty. Park staff had observed the river otter showing signs of sickness that day. He was then taken to a veterinarian at the University of Tennessee Animal Hospital for treatment, but after a few hours, unfortunately, he died.
The cause of Otto’s death is unknown, but a necropsy was performed to find out. Megan Krager, a senior naturalist at Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium, told KTVU that more tests were being performed to identify the real cause of death.
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Otto had lived at Bays Mountain Park since October 2017 as a 9-month-old pup. He and his sibling were orphaned in North Carolina’s floods according to a Facebook post by the Mountain Park and Planetarium. As a result of being in human care after the rescue, the pups lost their fear of humans and so didn’t need to return to the wild, so Otto became a resident of the park. Meanwhile, his sibling was at another facility, according to Krager.
Otto had survived being orphaned and found kindness and popularity in the nature park, but his life was cut short. Krager said losing Otto is “like losing a family member.”
“Otto was beloved by park staff and guests alike. A cheerful creature, he could often be found swimming or playing with toys in his pool, even when it was snowing outside,” park officials said in a Facebook post on May 31.
Feeding the animals at Bays Mountain is prohibited for a reason! And because someone threw toxic foods into the habitat, our beloved otter is now dead.
I’m heartbroken. But mostly, I’m pissed.
Farewell, Otto. I’m so sorry a stupid human being is the reason you died. pic.twitter.com/L0Pc6Zv2q9
— Whit (@Whit_R) May 30, 2019
Park officials were not sure but suspect food by visitors to be thrown into the enclosure as the cause of Otto’s demise. A representative told the Huff Post, “Grapes were found in the enclosure, but we suspect other food likely was also thrown in.”
Park manager Rob Cole also said that park staff had discovered grapes in Otto’s enclosure several days before his death according to Kingsport-Times News. Cole felt that Otto’s death should serve as a reminder that feeding animals at Bays Mountain Park is strictly prohibited for a reason.
Feeding animals is not entirely right, even though visitors may see park rangers and naturalists do so. Krager saw a need to further educate park visitors and that visitors should always check for signs and follow directions—especially when they say “Do not feed the animals.”
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The sad news spread fast, and many people sent photos and videos of the beloved Otto to Bays Mountain Park. The park thanked everyone for sharing their photos and compiled them together and dedicated a Facebook post to Otto so that fans could take a glimpse of the photogenic otter.
“Your outpouring of support for us during this hard time is very much appreciated,” the park wrote.
Thank you to everyone who has shared photos of Otto with us. We wanted to compile them in one place so they're easier to…
“The best thing you can do for the park and for Otto’s memory is to calmly, kindly educate one another on the dangers of feeding wildlife,” the post further read. “That goes for any wild animals — not just the ones at parks and zoos like ours.”
Currently, there is no timeline on when the park will receive another otter, but it’s something park officials are working on.
Watch the video:
A 3-year-old otter has died after guests at a nature preserve and wildlife sanctuary threw food into its enclosure. https://2wsb.tv/2W9h9bL
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