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

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

Hugh Dobbie’s South Surrey-based tech business Yare Media was recently acquired by California’s Visaic Inc. (SFU photo)
South Surrey tech company acquired by California business

Hugh Dobbie founded Yare Media in 2016, and ‘will remain involved’

Fraser Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Newton Elementary School in Surrey, according to an information bulletin Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Image: Google Street View)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at second Surrey elementary school

Newton Elementary closed for two weeks, set to reopen Dec. 14

Joy Johnson, seen here during an installation ceremony on Oct. 22, is Simon Fraser University’s 10th president and vice-chancellor. (Submitted photo)
SFU’s Surrey campus tackling COVID-19-related research

‘We can learn now,’ SFU president Joy Johnson said, ‘so should something like this happen again we’ll be prepared. We have to learn from this current pandemic’

Mayor Darryl Walker gives a welcoming hug to Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell at the inaugural meeting of the current White Rock council in 2018. (Alex Browne photo)
White Rock council under fire for inaugural prayer

BC Humanist Association charges city violated Supreme Court ruling two years ago

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

Most Read