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Grandfather Mountain mourns loss of Oconee the otter

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Article Published: Sep. 13, 2013 | Modified: Sep. 13, 2013
Grandfather Mountain mourns loss of Oconee the otter

Oconee the river otter, age 18, was humanely put to sleep Sept. 12, after a long, full life at Grandfather Mountain.
Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation



Oconee the river otter, age 18, was humanely put to sleep Sept. 12, after a long, full life at Grandfather Mountain.

According to animal habitat staff, the ailments, aches and pains that she suffered in her old age became increasingly more difficult and severe over the last month. Oconee was Grandfather Mountain's oldest otter.

Oconee was one of the original otters to reside in the attraction's animal habitat. She moved into the brand new habitat in July 1996, when she was 1 and half years old.

The park's founder, the late Hugh Morton, was a close friend of the otter. According to staff members, Oconee was one of his favorite models, “and there is no doubt that he took thousands of photos of her.”

Oconee lived in the otter habitat until January 2011, when Luna the otter arrived. All of Grandfather's otters were then moved down to a facility known as "the plaza," an off-display habitat, where they would be introduced to Luna for the first time.

The process did not go as planned, and, in the end, Luna and fellow otter Nottaway were moved back to the otter habitat, and otter Santee and Oconee remained at the plaza.

According to their caretakers, “Santee and Oconee developed a close bond with each other and could often be seen nuzzling, grooming and snuggling with one another.”

Santee died in December 2012 after a battle with lung cancer.

The plaza became a retirement home for Oconee, with staff saying it was actually more suitable for her developing ailments, as the grade of this habitat is more level and was therefore less stressful on her joints.

The habitat staff remembers Oconee as an otter that was always the first to come out and play or check out something new in her habitat in her younger days. One of her favorite pastimes was chasing fish, with caretakers noting it seemed she liked the chase even more than eating her catch.

Oconee is survived by Nottaway, Luna and Nova. Luna and Nottaway can be viewed in the otter enclosure at the Grandfather Mountain Animal Habitats. Nova arrived two weeks ago from a wildlife rehabilitator and is Grandfather's newest habitat animal. She currently resides at the plaza. The habitat staff plans to introduce Nova to Nottaway and Luna in early 2014.

For more information, visit http://www.grandfather.com or call (800) 468-7325.

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