COATS, N.C. -- The Harnett County Sheriff's Office is investigating after three rare river otters disappeared from a North Carolina animal sanctuary overnight.
According to officials at Animal Ed. Ventures, the otter enclosure and sanctuary gates were found open Tuesday morning.
The three otters, Sigmund, Nessy and Ned, were all missing.
The gates were double-checked prior to closing on Monday night, according to the sanctuary director Cory Freeman.
Freeman also noted an oddly high-pitched burst of noise in the middle of the night.
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The sanctuary says no dirt or rocks were disturbed near the enclosure, meaning the otters did not escape on their own.
"These otters came to the sanctuary as part of collaborative conservation effort because river otter numbers have declined exponentially across the US in recent years. This a result of ongoing aggressive deforestation along our rivers and streams. Our main concern is the welfare and safety of our animals-- otters have very specialized needs and we are worried sick," Freeman said.
The sanctuary is home to more than 200 animals that were once kept as pets.
This is the third case of animal sanctuary theft in the area in recent memory.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Detective Gardner at Harnett County Sheriff's Office (910)893-9111 or Animal Ed.Ventures at email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 rare river otters reportedly stolen from North Carolina animal sanctuary