A river otter in Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in downtown Vancouver. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Sadie Brown)

Team Otter vs. Team Koi: People pick sides as otter evades capture at Vancouver garden

Otter has eaten seven decorative koi so far at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Vancouver residents have begun to declare themselves “Team Otter” or “Team Koi” as an elusive otter feasting on expensive fish in a tranquil garden pond continues to evade capture.

The otter mysteriously made its way to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden last week and has gobbled up seven decorative koi, many of which have been there for decades.

A wildlife relocation expert started work Friday and set three new traps containing rainbow trout and an oil mixture, but staff are still waiting for the critter to jump into them, the city’s parks director said Saturday.

It’s hard to say whether the otter has found the traps or shown any interest in them, Howard Normann said.

“Not enough to get into them, that’s for sure.”

Garden staff were discussing options Saturday to remove the koi from the pond to keep them safe, but Normann said it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“They’re sensitive fish. It’s pretty tricky to do,” he said.

He declined to share the wildlife relocation’s expert’s name or where he’s from but Normann said staff are confident in his abilities.

“He’s an experienced otter trapper, so that’s about as confident as we can get,” he said.

It’s still unclear how the otter found the garden, which is surrounded by busy streets, but a resident recently contacted Normann to report the critter may have been living in a nearby park between the Sun Yat-Sen garden and False Creek.

The garden has remained closed since the otter set up shop and once it’s captured the plan is to relocate it to the Fraser Valley.

In the meantime, the story has captivated people in Vancouver and beyond, with social media users joining #TeamOtter or #TeamKoi.

“This is bad for the otter, so removing him is in everyone’s best interest,” one #TeamKoi member said.

Local non-profit group Chinatown Today has even made a batch of buttons bearing adorable cartoon otters and koi and is selling the buttons for $2 each

Initially, the group planned to donate all proceeds to the classical garden, but founder Louis Lapprend said the garden has asked that the money be given to a wildlife refuge instead.

Lapprend said people appear to be fascinated by the story in part because it’s a battle of wits similar to a Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon, in which the coyote can never quite catch his prey despite trying increasingly ridiculous schemes.

“I think there’s a comedy aspect to it, because every day the park board staff will set up new traps and every morning, they have to publicly announce the otter visited the traps, ate all the bait, and didn’t trigger anything,” he said.

“On a more philosophical level, I think it’s about the way that we live in a big city, we try to control the environment, and suddenly something completely unpredictable happens and it’s nature intruding. I think it does something to our brains. It triggers a reaction which is fascinating.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First government licensed cannabis shop on Vancouver Island celebrates one year in business

‘I’m really happy we’re here giving the public what they want’

Fire Chefs give back to community with one free meal a day to those who are in need

Fire Chefs will offer one free meal from 3:30 until 4:30 on the days they are open to those in need.

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

COVID-19: Isolation exemptions to frontline workers a danger to patients, say Island Health employees

Staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel according to Island Health

North Island community groups are adapting due to COVID-19

‘The coronavirus and its effects make this a challenging time for us all’

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Canadian COVID-19 update: Cases spike in Quebec & Ontario; Nine O’Clock Gun salutes health workers

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 12:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

’The energy sector is destroyed beyond repair’: expert on COVID-19’s impact on economy

‘That’s never been heard of before; no one sells oil for $4 a barrel.’ – Dan McTeague

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

24,000 Canadian Forces members ready for COVID-19 response: Defence Minister

No direct requests made by premiers yet, national defence minister says

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Most Read