The cutest robbery we ever did see.

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Mystery solved!

An employee at North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island recently set up a trail camera after noticing that the crab pots at the aquarium's educational dock kept turning up empty. The footage he captured revealed that a family of mischievous river otters had been looting the pots of blue crabs in the dead of night.

"The mystery of the empty crab pot is solved!" the aquarium wrote alongside a Facebook video (below) of the cute thieves in action. "River otters have been snacking on blue crabs while hanging out on our sound-side educational dock."

"Watch the whole video to see a blue heron cameo, otters doing their cute poop dance, some close-ups, and zoomies," the caption continues. "They really let us know what they think of the trail camera at the end."

According to the aquarium, this activity isn't just entertaining to watch, it's also "exciting," because river otters are what's known as an "indicator species." Their presence in the Croatan Sound is a sign of a healthy local ecosystem—a win-win for both humans and animals.

River otters have long served as a bellwether for the health of a river system. Healthy rivers beget healthy river otters, which means humans have a lot to celebrate when they thrive. 

River Otter on Dock
Credit: Carol Hamilton/Getty Images

In 2020, two N.C. State University studies on the health of North Carolina's river otters showed a "really, really low" prevalence of diseases and heavy metals in the state's rivers.

"Everything runs to the rivers," Chris DePerno, co-author of both studies and a professor in NC State's Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Program, explained. "Everything on the landscape ends up in the water, and that is where otters live and eat. That is why they are an excellent species to investigate pathogens and diseases."

It sounds like they've earned an all-you-can-eat blue crab buffet!