An otter ‘beloved’ by legions of Outer Banks tourists has died on Roanoke Island, NC

Molly, the river otter, has died at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island, says the staff.
Molly, the river otter, has died at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island, says the staff. NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island photo

A “beloved” rascal that may have been the most famous river otter in North Carolina has died after suffering a seizure at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, according to a press release issued Wednesday.

Known as Molly, the otter lived 18 years at the aquarium in Manteo, making her a familiar whiskered face to tens of thousands of Outer Banks tourists. (Roanoke Island sits between the mainland and the Outer Banks.)

An exact cause of death was not released, but aquarium staff say she had been diagnosed in 2017 with “an unidentifiable mass in her brain” that was deemed “too high-risk” to remove. It is believed that mass triggered the seizure early Monday, a release said.

“When she did not regain consciousness over the following days, the aquarium and veterinary staff made the determination to euthanize Molly rather than have her experience any suffering,” officials said.

Molly was 1 year old when she was brought to North Carolina from the Florida Aquarium in 2001, according to a release.

“Her then-caretaker described her as highly energetic and playful - a real ‘handful’,” a release said. “Over nearly two decades, she became a well-loved ambassador of her species... Many guests returned year after year to visit her.”

North American river otters in captivity have a life expectancy of 18 to 20 years, making Molly elderly in otter years, officials said.

“She definitely lived a full life,” said a statement from Kristen Clark, the aquarium’s husbandry curator. “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.”

North American river otters are known for being playful in nature and communicating “with whistles, yelps, growls, and screams, as well as touch and body posture,” according to the National Wildlife Federation. They face challenges in the wild due to “habitat destruction and pollution,” the federation says.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.