Wilson, the playful and charismatic river otter at the Sacramento Zoo, was found dead in his exhibit on Monday.
“Wilson will be a tough loss for everyone," said zookeeper Erik Bowker. “He was an amazing otter to work with due to his incredible intelligence and love for foods of all kind.”
Bowker said Wilson delighted the public, sometimes going nose-to-nose with children at the glass of his exhibit.
The cause of death for the zoo’s male otter is not known, but the 14-year-old mammal was acting a bit abnormal the day before his death. A veterinary exam a year ago did not indicate any cause for concern.
A necropsy will be performed by UC Davis veterinary experts, according to a zoo press release. Otters live up to 10 years old in the wild and 20 years in captivity.
Wilson was born in South Carolina, where he was orphaned along with a sibling. Authorities decided he could not be released to the wild, and a home was provided for him at a zoo.
In 2006, he took up residence at the Sacramento Zoo, where he lived with Percy, the zoo’s female North American otter. Otters can be found in the Yolo basin and the American River.