Otto the otter lived at Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium in Kingsport since October 2017. The park described him as "a cheerful creature, he could often be found swimming or playing with toys in his pool, even when it was snowing outside."
In a series of posts on its Facebook page, the park said Otto had gotten sick Thursday after guests threw food into his area "that his body could not tolerate." He was sent to an animal hospital.
"As a reminder, feeding the animals at Bays Mountain Park is strictly prohibited for exactly this reason. Human food is often intolerable and, in this case, even harmful to our animals," the park wrote.
But later that day, the park announced that beloved Otto didn't make it.
Otto had lost his parents in a devastating flood in North Carolina, so a nearby rehabilitation center took him and his sibling in. The center planned to release them back to the wild, but the pair had lost their fear of humans, which would make it difficult for them to survive in the wild. So when Otto was 9 months old, the duo were sent to live out their days at Bays Mountain.
The park reminded its followers that feeding animals can only hurt the creatures and is never a safe thing to do.
"The best thing you can do for the park and for Otto's memory is to calmly, kindly educate one another on the dangers of feeding wildlife. That goes for any wild animals--not just the ones at parks and zoos like ours," the park wrote.