It looks like the otter versus koi debate in Vancouver will be rekindled.
The garden pond at Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was temporarily closed this week as the park board deals with the appearance of otter, almost a year a wayward river otter killed most of the garden’s resident mature koi.
“The otter was sighted and confirmed to be at the pond on Wednesday morning along with carcasses of three koi,” the park board said in a statement Saturday morning.
Howard Normann, director of parks, said Saturday the first koi carcass was found by staff at Dr. Sun Yet-San late Tuesday afternoon. He said a team was out first thing Wednesday morning and the park board’s wildlife expert saw the otter in the garden.
“Right away we came up with a plan.”
The next day the process of draining the pond was started. Traps were set and on Friday the team started removing the koi from the pond. However, by then six mature koi had fallen victim to the hungry otter.
“I can’t confirm whether or not it was the same otter, but it was definitely an otter,” Normann said.
On Saturday afternoon, the last of the koi were removed from the pond and are being temporarily housed off site. In all, eight large and more than 100 small koi were removed and are being held by a professional koi importer in Richmond.
The board is expecting to be able to refill the pond within the next 48 hours and the garden was re-opened Saturday afternoon.
Six traps were set on the private side of the garden, which is where the majority of the dead koi were found. Normann said the plan is to leave the traps in place for another day.
“If there’s no food source I think, just like last time, the otter will just leave,” he said.
Vancouver Park Board is well versed in dealing with otters in the garden. Last November, a river otter made headlines in Vancouver and beyond when it infiltrated the garden and evaded capture for nearly two weeks.
The otter killed most of the garden’s mature koi, including Madonna, the most famous of the garden’s residents, before the remaining fish were rescued and taken to Vancouver Aquarium for safe keeping.
The otter was never caught and was believed to have simply moved on.
In May, the three remaining adult and more than 300 juvenile koi were ceremoniously returned to the pond, along with additional adult koi donated from UBC’s Nitobe Memorial Garden and a private collector.
Normann said with all the news coverage of the otter versus koi saga last year, the garden saw in increase in the number of visitors.
“It was a great story for visitation to the garden,” he said. “It wasn’t a great story for the koi but definitely for visitation it really raised the presence of the garden.”
Normann said with another otter infiltrating the pond, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and the park board may have to look at doing things differently in the future.
“It hadn’t happened for over 30 years and then to have it happen once, we thought it was a one-off but this is proving that these otters are pretty clever so this could be an annual thing so we’ll have to rethink how we’re doing this and how long we leave the koi in the pond.”
This story has been updated since it was originally posted.