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Koi tremble in fear as otter makes reappearance in Vancouver Chinese garden

An otter is once again being blamed for targeting koi in the pond at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical garden in Vancouver. As Jill Bennett reports, it comes about a year after multiple fish were killed by an otter that also infiltrated the pond.

It’s back.

Nearly a year after a hungry otter began decimating the koi population at Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens, another animal has returned to finish the job.

The Vancouver Park Board said Saturday the otter was spotted in the koi pond on Wednesday morning, after the carcasses of three koi were found.

Vancouver Chinatown garden reopens with otter prevention plan in place
Vancouver Chinatown garden reopens with otter prevention plan in place

Parks director Howard Normann later said a total of six koi carcasses were found “completely eaten.”

“It’s very unfortunate,” he said. “To have this happen once, we thought it was a one-off. But this is proving that these otters are pretty clever.”

Normann said the first koi carcass was reported by the garden Tuesday night, and park board staff responded the next morning.

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A wildlife expert spotted the otter in the pond, and the animal was later seen on surveillance video.

Park board staff began draining the pond that same day in order to transfer the remaining koi to a temporary holding area off-site.

On Friday, when the park board says six large koi and over 100 small koi were safely removed. On Saturday, the final two large koi and 40 to 50 juveniles were captured.

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The garden reopened to the public later Saturday. The koi, meanwhile, may be allowed to return “within the next 48 hours” when the pond is refilled.

It’s not yet known whether this otter is the same one that ate 11 of the garden’s 14 prized koi fish in November of last year, including a prized 50-year-old fish named Madonna.

READ MORE: 50-year-old koi ‘Madonna’ killed by otter in Vancouver’s Chinese garden

That rogue otter was never found, despite multiple traps and other attempts by park board staff and even a wildlife expert to snare the animal.

Three adult and 344 juvenile fish were scooped from the pond and taken to the Vancouver Aquarium for safekeeping, and were returned to the garden this past May.

The park board modified the garden’s entrance and exit points, with plates on the bottom of its doors to prevent any animals from re-entering the area, along with automatic door closers.

Normann said those extra measures are still in place, leaving the question of how the otter got inside the garden a mystery.

Koi return to Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden
Koi return to Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

“To be quite frank, we don’t know what otters are capable of,” he said. “We know for a fact there’s no entrance points like a sewer or water line or drainage line into the garden that isn’t sealed.

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“I’m assuming it either climbed over the gate, or somebody left it ajar and it just managed to get in.”

Normann said he’s heard from neighbours that an otter had been spotted across the street from the garden at the fountain in Andy Livingston Park, but could not confirm if this was the same otter.

READ MORE: In wake of otter-pocalypse, koi return to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens

He added the response was faster this time around compared to last year, calling it a “good news, bad news story” for the garden.

“The bad news is, of course, the garden is very disappointed that they lost some of the koi,” Normann said. “The good news is we were able to react much faster, because we had a really good idea of what would happen.”

Normann said the latest otter attack could change how long koi are kept in the pond, which will be looked at in the days ahead.

On Saturday, the parody Twitter account created for last year’s otter began tweeting again.

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So did the counter parody account created for the koi.