A beloved river otter at the Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium in Tennessee no longer greets visitors or enchants passersby with antics in his swimming pool after guests threw food into his habitat that led to his death.
Park officials described Otto as a “cheerful creature, he could often be found swimming or playing with toys in his pool, even when it was snowing outside,” according to The Washington Post.
But in a Facebook post last week, park officials had to share the heartbreaking news of Otto’s passing, taking the opportunity to remind all who visit the park that feeding the animals is forbidden for good reason.
“Human food is often intolerable and, in this case, even harmful to our animals,” the post read. “Please follow all posted park rules, including the signs that say not to feed the animals.”
Though necropsy results will determine the exact cause of Otto’s death, visitors had thrown grapes into the otter’s enclosure, according to park manager Rob Cole.
He told the Kingsport Times-News:“Grapes aren’t part of their diet and it’s not what we feed them. Even the most well-intentioned efforts to feed them is not a good idea and we’re dealing with the after effects now.”
On social media, reactions to Otto’s death were a mix of sadness and anger: