DULUTH - The Great Lakes Aquarium's beloved male river otter Zhoosh has passed away.
He was found by the aquarium's otter keeper during their morning feeding Saturday.
Keepers believe Zhoosh died of gastrointestinal disease.
He had been battling an irritable bowel disorder for the past few months and was taking medication.
But recently, staff says he became increasingly lethargic and looked sick.
Full autopsy results from the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center are expected within a week.
He was 13 years old.
The loss has been devastating to aquarium staff.
He came to the aquarium in 2000 when it first opened.
Zhoosh was found orphaned in Virginia and the aquarium became his home.
"While not a long life in human years, otters in the wild typically live 8 to 10 years. As a rescued orphaned otter, Zhoosh was given many more years than he might have otherwise had," said education director, Sarah Erickson. "We are grateful for the time that we had to learn from him and smile at his playful antics."
Plans for a memorial are pending.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Great Lakes Aquarium)