Thomas, the longtime resident river otter at the High Desert Museum, died Friday from old age. Thomas was 16 years old and had been delighting museum guests since 2002.
"Our wildlife staff, volunteers, and our frequent visitors are going to miss Thomas tremendously," said Museum President Janeanne Upp. "He's been a wonderful companion over the years, and a tremendous asset to this museum."
Last winter, t,e Museum added a second river otter, a 4-year-old male named Rogue. As Upp explained, the two got along splendidly.
"Rogue and Thomas were buddies. You could really see the connection they had… they'd roll around and frolic and put on quite a show. So we've already started the process of finding another otter to keep Rogue company."
The life expectancy of river otters in the wild is 8 to 9 years, but due to a variety of factors, including better conditions, nutrition and increased medical care, otters in captivity can live up to 20 years. None of the animals at the High Desert Museum could survive in the wild.
The public and especially children are invited to send in cards and pictures of Thomas, which will be displayed on a memorial wall in the Autzen Otter Exhibit. The museum has also established a fund in Thomas' memory for otter care. Cards and gifts may be sent to the High Desert Museum, care of Thomas Memorial Fund, 59800 S. Highway 97, Bend, OR 97702.