The Harnett County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the disappearance of three river otters from a private zoo in Coats, N.C., about 30 miles south of Raleigh.
Although authorities don’t yet know what happened to the otters, Animal Ed.ventures Sanctuary Director Cory Freeman says it’s clear to her that human intervention was involved.
The otters disappeared from their enclosure late last month. Freeman says she heard a high-pitched cry in the middle of the night, followed by the shrieking of peacocks.
The next morning, caretakers found the otter enclosure empty.
“First thing was [to] look at the latches and the locks on the enclosure,” she said. “The latch hadn’t failed, it wasn’t out of position, it literally only could have been moved with a level of manual dexterity.”
The trio, named Sigmund, Nessy and Ned, came to the sanctuary from another facility five months ago, Freeman said. She’s uncertain why anyone would steal them and concerned about their welfare.
“We are worried every minute of every day, you know, are they getting the right food, are they trapped in some small cage somewhere, have they sold them to somebody?” she said. “We don’t even know.”
Freeman said the incident has put her staff on edge and left them worried about the roughly 200 other creatures that also live at the private zoo. She’s hoping to install a new surveillance system to protect the facility.
Anyone with information on the otters is asked to call the Harnett County Sheriff's Office at 910-893-9111 or Animal Ed.ventures Sanctuary at 910-897-1555.