'He's a bit of a pirate obviously,' says biologist about koi-eating Vancouver otter

A classical Chinese garden in Vancouver remains closed as the hunt to capture an elusive otter, which is decimating the location's koi population, continues.

'We love and hate them at the same time in a situation like this,' says Nick Page about the elusive creatures

An otter has moved into the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver. (Sadie Brown/Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden)

A classical Chinese garden in Vancouver remains closed as the hunt continues to capture an elusive otter, which is decimating the location's koi population.

The story of the industrious animal and the valuable decorative fish has captured the attention of many. Onlookers now congregate outside the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden to see what efforts are being made to capture the otter.

The garden, which is located in Vancouver's Chinatown, describes itself on its website as "an oasis of tranquillity and reflection amid the bustle of urban life." But since Wednesday a life and death struggle over its koi fish has upset that balance.

A koi pond at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver. (Vancouver Park Board/Twitter)

Some people are deeply concerned about the fish, which are coloured varieties of the common carp, while others are siding with the otter.

"I'm all for the otter," said Vancouver resident Katrina Smathers on Saturday from outside the garden. "I believe that the otter is probably in his heaven and glory here."

'I think it moved into this site in Chinatown in East Vancouver by either smelling a pond, maybe smelling the fish, or maybe it was just a random event,' says Park Board biologist Nick Page. 'Maybe they forage more in urban environments than we think.' (CBC)

Nick Page, a biologist with the Vancouver Park Board, says the animal has been making the most of the garden's food source — the koi.

He says once otters identify a good food supply, the animals will keep coming back, even as a group, until there is no food left. He's impressed that the otter has travelled hundreds of metres from the ocean to the garden.

'A bit of a pirate obviously'

'He's a bit of a pirate obviously," he said of the animal that has, so far, eaten seven fish. "He has come in to steal these fish and I think we appreciate their skills at doing this and how wily they are to evade capture."

A trap set to capture an otter at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver. (Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden/Twitter)

The park board has hired a wildlife relocation expert to try and capture the animal and send it to the Fraser Valley, about an hour's drive from Vancouver.

Page says that's a good idea, because if the otter was taken to nearby Stanley Park, for example, it most likely would find its way back to the garden.

Vancouver Aquarium officials arrived at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver with nets and containers on Saturday Nov. 24, 2018. (CBC)

On Saturday, officials with the Vancouver Aquarium were seen entering the garden with fish nets and containers.

With files from Nora Chabib.