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

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Courtney Preyser is a music teacher and librarian for several schools in Kitimat, and her passion for music and literacy shows in her work. (Clare Rayment)
In Our Valley: Courtney Preyser

Preyser grew up with a passion for music and literacy, which shows in her work and life everyday

<em>Black Press file photo</em>
Clare’s Corner: Giving thanks despite the negatives

Thanksgiving may have passed, but it’s never too late to count your blessings

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read