VANCOUVER — An otter that wandered into a tranquil garden in Vancouver's Chinatown has been feasting on expensive fish in a pond but a park official hopes it will sniff out some raw chicken in a trap so it can be returned home.
The city's parks director Howard Normann said the otter could have arrived at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden on Sunday from Stanley Park, about three kilometres away.
Staff at the garden believe it has gobbled up five to six decorative koi, many of which had been there for decades, Howard said Tuesday.
The garden is the only such facility outside of China, featuring a pagoda, a pond, a winding path and plants based on the Ming Dynasty-era tradition.
Howard said he saw the otter with a koi at the garden earlier Tuesday, but visitors have also reported spotting the animal on the streets of Chinatown four days earlier.
The Vancouver Park Board was called on Sunday when the animal started eating the koi, Normann said.
It's not yet known if the garden's most popular and oldest koi, named Madonna, believed to be about 50, has escaped the clutches of the creature, the first of its kind to have entered the sanctuary in its 34-year history.
"Everybody loves Madonna, it's sort of the mascot here," Normann said, adding all the koi may need to be enclosed in one area to keep them safe.
The park board has set up a cage containing raw chicken and a mat soaked in fish oil in hopes of attracting the otter so it can be transported back to its home turf.
It's a mystery to Norman how the river otter arrived at the garden.
"The gates are accessible," he said. "The river otters, I understand, can climb trees. There are some drainage pipes coming and going from this pond system so possibly it was swimming through the storm system."
About 16 koi are thought to be living in the pond, based on how many were relocated to the Vancouver Aquarium and another facility when the pond was drained and cleaned a couple of years ago.
Part of the garden has been closed until the unwelcome visitor, sex unknown, has been captured.
It wasn't making an appearance Tuesday afternoon.
Normann said it's possible that more than one otter is at the garden because two to five of the animals are often seen together.
A spokeswoman with the Vancouver Aquarium said the facility has offered to take in some koi if they need to be moved from the pond.
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Camille Bains, The Canadian Press