Bays Mountain Park officials say the park’s only river otter died on Thursday after it fell ill because someone threw food into its enclosure.
The park announced earlier Thursday that “Otto” the otter was being taken to UT Animal Hospital in Knoxville.
“Otto the river otter fell ill after park guests threw food into his enclosure that his body could not tolerate,” the park said in the previous statement.
According to a spokesperson for the park, the food was thrown into Otto’s enclosure fairly recently by visitors. It is unknown when exactly the food was placed there.
Otto came in the park in October 2017 from a rehabilitation facility in North Carolina. The facility cared for Otto and his siblings after their parents were killed in a flood. Originally, they planned to release the otters back into the wild, but that plan changed once they determined the otters had lost their fear of humans.
“Otto was beloved by park staff and guests alike,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “A cheerful creature, he could often be found swimming or playing with toys in his pool, even when it was snowing outside.”
A necropsy will be performed to determine Otto’s death.