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Elusive Vancouver otter eschews traps, chews bait

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VANCOUVER — A river otter with a taste for valuable koi carp may also have a flair for drama as it continues to avoid humane traps and confound efforts to remove it from a classical Chinese garden in downtown Vancouver.

Two more traps have been added to the one set late Tuesday in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden but spokeswoman Debbie Cheung says not only has the otter evaded capture, it also appears to have snatched the bait.

She says the salmon, tuna and chicken were gone from one of the traps when staff arrived Thursday morning, but there was no immediate sign that any more koi had been eaten overnight.

One of the traps is barely a metre from what officials believe is the otter’s new den and another is near the area where staff have found gnawed remains of most of the six large, valuable koi that were among more than a dozen of the garden’s once-thriving carp stocks.

The city’s director of parks Howard Normann has said motion cameras could also be installed in the garden in hopes of tracking the otter, and Cheung says it’s time to “look at plan B.”

The public side of the extensive, walled garden on the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown has been closed while the search for the otter continues.

“I feel really sad that we are losing our koi but at the same time, the otter is really smart,” says Cheung.

“I hope that he is full from eating the bait and doesn’t go after our fish.”

How the otter arrived in the tranquil, walled garden remains a mystery but Vancouver resident Chris Galer has offered a clue.

He has a photo of an otter he spotted scampering across streets in Chinatown on Saturday night before it disappeared in bushes, barely a block from the Sun Yat-Sen enclosure.

“It was clearly an otter,” Galer says, adding his wife didn’t believe him until they both saw it as they crossed another street.

Officials say they hope to trap and relocate the otter to Stanley Park, believed to be its home.

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