The saga of Prospector Park’s Otter, a lost dog

Otter with a friend. (Submitted photo)

Determined Apache Junction Parks and Recreation Department staffers needed a month to rescue an injured puppy near Prospector Park last summer.

Otter now has a happy life with her forever family. It took awhile. She even has a new four-legged friend, but the journey getting there was a bit treacherous, even with a little help from parks employees.

Otter. (Submitted photo)

Otter was spotted in August limping in the park and was recognized by a parks worker as a dog seen weeks earlier. Former animal control officer and now Park Ranger Annje Hultgren was informed and got the ball rolling. She informed the other rangers and the Paws and Claws Care Center.

Less than a week later, Park Ranger Cynthia Thario spotted the dog and informed Ms. Hultgren, who set a dog trap since Otter was too skittish to be approached. The trap initially held the dog, which appeared to have a Maricopa County tag and was bleeding under a leg. However, in trying to secure her, Otter escaped.

Ms. Hultgren volunteers with the Humane Animal Rescue and Trapping Team, a Phoenix-area group that specializes in rescuing animals who tend to run away from people. Ms. Hultgren contacted the group, who sent out two trappers to assist with a larger trap and trail cameras to track her. A feeding station also was set.

Meanwhile, Ms. Hultgren contacted an administrator of the Apache Junction and Gold Canyon Facebook page and a post led to the puppy’s owner. It turned out that Otter had been missing three months earlier from Gold Canyon. She had recently been adopted from Maricopa County Animal Control with the owner hoping to rehabilitate her. But, a month after adopting Otter, the dog escaped from a harness during a walk.

Trail cam footage showed Otter showing up consistently each night to the feeding station and park ranger Jeff Evans found the dog’s hiding spot during the daytime, a drainage tunnel about 500 feet from the south gate of Prospector Park. At that point, they pieced together that Otter knew when the gates locked at the park for the evening and could go through the tunnel to the feeding station.

However, on Sept. 23, coyotes were seen on the trail cam and Ms. Hultgren knew they had to move in if they were going to save Otter. A special trap was brought in the next day and a team of six HARTT volunteers waited for Otter to spring the trap. The park closed promptly at 10 p.m. and by 10:15, Otter was in the trap. The volunteers raced across the parking lot to calm Otter down and rescued her for transport to a veterinarian.

Otter needed soft-tissue surgery for her severely infected wound, but she had no nerve damage. She was placed in a foster home with one of the HARTT volunteers, who ended up adopting her after the dog’s former owner relinquished her to the rescue, knowing that Otter needed specialized care.

Editor’s note: Al Bravo is the City of Apache Junction’s public information officer.

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