Dec. 6, 2012. Santee the river otter, believed to be around age 13, has passed away after a battle with lung cancer. After noticing his breathing pattern had suddenly become irregular, trainers took him to the veterinarian on Monday where he succumbed to the disease. An autopsy later revealed his condition to be cancer, covering the majority of his lungs.
Santee came to live on Grandfather Mountain in February 2002 when he was around one and a half years old. He arrived with his friend, Nottaway, to a not-so-welcoming couple of girls, Oconee and Nola. Santee’s introduction to his new friends was a very slow, careful process that took over a month.
Due to him having such an aggressive personality, their first meetings involved a lot of screaming, wrestling and chasing. Despite all their disagreements, Santee soon had two new friends.
Santee was very intelligent, handsome and tended to be a bit lazy at times. He loved taking naps, tunneling in leaf piles, sliding in the snow, snorting at his keepers and chasing live fish. Santee was often seen carrying leaves, pine needles or branches to his bed in order to make his nap as pleasant as possible.
Known affectionately as “the walrus” on account of his large size, Santee will always be remembered as a favorite of the Habitat staff. Santee is survived by Oconee, Nottaway and Luna, the three other river otters of Grandfather Mountain. Luna and Nottaway can be viewed in the otter enclosure at the Grandfather Mountain Animal Habitats.