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High Desert Museum Announces Death Of Beloved River Otter

OPB | Oct. 28, 2013 2:55 p.m. | Bend, Oregon

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A 16-year old Northern river otter at Central Oregon’s High Desert Museum has died. Museum staff say the animal they called Thomas died of old age

Rogue plays alone at the Oregon High Desert Museum after the death of the museum's other river otter, Thomas.

Rogue plays alone at the Oregon High Desert Museum after the death of the museum's other river otter, Thomas.

David Nogueras / OPB

Thomas had been a fixture at the museum for more than a decade.  Biologists determined he wouldn’t be able to survive on his own in the wild since he was born in captivity.

Dana Whitelaw is Vice President of Programs at the museum.

She says otters, in particular, make for effective teaching tools, simply because they’re so adept at drawing people in.

“They’re a very charismatic mammal that’s dependent on the fish, which are dependent on the insects, which are dependent on the small plant species that are in those riparian areas.  And so there’s that wonderful chain of connections that the otters highlight,” says Whitelaw.

With Thomas now gone, a 4-year-old male named Rogue is the museum’s sole river otter.  Whitelaw says the museum is working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to find another otter to keep Rogue company.

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