MANTEO – Staff at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island are mourning the loss of Molly, the North American river otter that has delighted guests at the aquarium for nearly 18 years.
Molly was under 24-hour supervision after experiencing a seizure early Monday morning. When she did not regain consciousness over the following days, the aquarium and veterinary staff decided to euthanize Molly rather than have her experience any suffering.
“Like all of the animals in our care, quality of life is our highest priority,” said Husbandry Curator Kristen Clark. “We all are so devastated to lose Molly, but this was the most humane route to prevent any further discomfort or health problems on her part.”
In 2017, Molly first experienced a similar seizure. Following a CT scan, veterinarians determined that she had an unidentifiable mass in her brain. Surgery was deemed too risky, and she remained under close observation. She quickly recovered from that incident, displaying normal energy and behavior of an otter her age, according to the announcement Wednesday.
To make her more comfortable, she was separated from the younger and more energetic males, Banks and Finn. Under the constant care and observation by her caretaker, Molly continued to behave normally, including swimming, eating and participating in enrichment activities, until this latest incident.
Molly came to the aquarium from the Florida Aquarium in 2001 at less than a year old. Two weeks later, she was introduced to the public. Her then-caretaker described her as highly energetic and playful – a real “handful.”
During the nearly two decades since, she became a well-loved ambassador of her species, allowing the aquarium staff to share stories benefiting the conservation and preservation of otters and their habitats.
At 18, Molly was considered an elderly otter – the life expectancy of otters under care is around 18-20 years. In the wild, otters live to be 9 or 10 years old.
“She definitely lived a full life,” Clark said.
Caretakers, aquarium staff and volunteers alike form special bonds with the animals under the aquarium’s care, as do many guests. As the resident matriarch, Molly held a special place at the aquarium and she will be missed by many, said North Carolina Aquariums Director Maylon White.
“We are so grateful for Molly’s time with us, and our thoughts are with her caretakers who were constantly devoted to her health and well-being,” White said.