Olive the young river otter dies suddenly of heart defect at Kaleideum in Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Olive the young river otter has died.

Olive made her debut last fall at the Winston-Salem museum Kaleideum Downtown.

The museum announced Friday that the young otter died suddenly Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Animal care staff said all appeared well on Monday with Olive being playful and curious as she should be.

Then, the next morning, she was found dead.

Mitchell Spindel of Animal Ark Veterinary Hospital did a necropsy and found that Olive had a heart defect which “most likely” played a role in her sudden death, according to Kaleideum.

“This is a very sad, but not unheard of, situation,” Spindel said in a news release. “More often than not, we have no way of knowing that an animal — especially a wild animal — carries this type of defect until it’s too late. By all appearances, Olive was a healthy and happy otter. She met her growth benchmarks, ate well, and played hard.”

The Kaleideum’s North American River Otter exhibit first opened in the early 1990s with Mollie, a female otter, and Otto, a male otter.

Mollie died of old age in 2015, and after a search for Otto’s new companion, curators learned last summer that wildlife officials in Whispering Pines had rescued an orphaned otter.

The otter couldn’t be released back into the wild, so the museum welcomed her in and, with the help of Museum members and visitors, she was named Olive.

When Olive first met Otto in October, they quickly became friends.

“We are saddened by Olive’s sudden and completely unexpected death,” said Kaleideum Executive Director Elizabeth Dampier. “She was a favorite of the staff, especially the animal curators who have, since she first arrived as a baby, cared for her and celebrated each milestone, and she was loved by many of our members and visitors.”

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