PINE KNOLL SHORES, N.C. (WNCT) — The N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is mourning the loss of one of its river otters that was part of a popular attraction.

Neuse, the oldest male, died at age 18 this week. Officials said while he outlived the age of otters that live in the wild, he could not overcome health issues he developed last week.

Officials said Neuse began showing signs of gastrointestinal issues. On Wednesday, to investigate the recent health changes, the veterinary and animal care team performed a procedure to collect some diagnostic samples. Neuse did well under anesthesia and recovered smoothly at the end of the day.

He was comfortable overnight into the following day. The team was monitoring him closely as he was seen resting a lot and not recovering his typical energy and appetite. Later that day, he was found to be unresponsive and then passed away in his sleep with his veterinary and animal care team nearby.

“Neuse was the peacemaker of the group and instrumental in welcoming the two newest otters, Pee Dee and Rocky, into the Aquarium family,” said Emily Christiansen, DVM, MPH, DACZM, chief veterinarian for the N.C. Aquariums. 

River otters generally live alone or in small social groups. They can live eight to nine years in the wild but can live up to 20 years in professional human care.

Neuse arrived at the Aquarium in Spring 2006 with Pungo, a second North American river otter of the same age. The duo became a trio when, in 2008, Eno arrived as a pup and was introduced to the other two in early 2009. Pungo passed away in 2022 from an age-related, degenerative spinal issue.

Later that year, two young otters, Pee Dee and Rocky, arrived at the Aquarium and joined Neuse and Eno. Eno is 15. Pee Dee and Rocky are both over a year old. All are doing well and are healthy.

The N.C. Aquariums’ veterinary team will perform a necropsy to learn more about Neuse’s condition. This information may help animal care teams across the country care for their North American river otters.