Fish Pond Evacuated After Rogue Otter's Appetite Proves Unstoppable

A view of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
An otter with an insatiable appetite for koi fish has managed to elude capture for weeks. riekephotos/

It seemed the dubious guest would never leave — at least not while there was still food on the table.

For the otter who lives in Vancouver's Sun Yat-sen Park, that table happened to be a koi pond, where scores of the ornamental fish were just primed for the plucking.

And sure enough, the bold critter dug right in, reportedly devouring 10 koi in just over a week.

The trouble is, they're not called ornamental fish for nothing. Koi can cost anywhere from $10 for a baby to several thousand dollars for an adult.

This little dine-and-dasher even left taunting messages for would-be captors.

"It's very smart," Debbie Cheung, a spokesperson for the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden, told the Vancouver Sun. "We have pieces of scales on the rocks and there are bones."

Facing the complete annihilation of the koi population in the iconic Chinatown garden — as well as tens of thousands of dollars in losses — city officials acted quickly.

"We don't want to lose all our koi," Vancouver parks director Howard Normann told reporters at a press conference last week. "The otter will stay here until every single koi is gone."

And so the hunt for the rogue otter began.

"At the moment, we have not captured the otter," Normann noted at last week's presser. "I know people are very curious. We did set a trap. The otter visited our trap and took our fish and our tuna and our chicken."

The trap itself jammed after helping fill the critter's belly.

Otter 1. City of Vancouver 0.

But, as Normann continued. "We have a Plan B."

That would be the professional animal relocator — someone who specializes in otters and raccoons and mink.

Normann professed to be "quite confident" that the rogue otter's days at the buffet table were numbered. He even talked about one of the rivers — the wilds of the Chilliwack or the salmon-rich Campbell, perhaps — the otter could happily settle down in, far from Vancouver's Chinatown.

"This is the best chance for a happy life for this otter. Lots of food. Lots of friends," Normann added.

But the scoundrel in question seemed to like his life near the fish pond just fine.

Now a week later, the animal has eluded every attempt at capture, while gorging on the thinning population of koi.

An outline of an otter.
The enigmatic otter has found fame online as people rally behind #TeamOtter. Silbervogel/Shutterstock

At the same time, his legend has grown. On social media, people have been using hashtags like #TeamOtter and #TeamKoi to support either the diner or the dined-upon.

Some suggested the pond be regularly stocked with fish to ensure the otter never goes hungry.

But as Team Koi would contend, city life is fraught with peril for wildlife. One of the few times the otter was sighted happened to be while he was crossing a bustling downtown road.

And we might ask the two remaining adult koi fish about peril. Or how they witnessed their friends and family being plucked from the waters by those famously nimble otter paws.

In the end, officials implemented a rather extreme solution. Earlier this week, they drained the pond, carefully rounding up the leftover fish — 2 adults and 344 juveniles — and shipped them to the Vancouver Aquarium

According to the Sun, the fish will stay there for as long as it takes to capture the ravenous otter. Which, based on the animal's genius for subterfuge, may be a while.

But in the meantime, dear otter, one thing is for certain.

No more (fish) soup for you.