River Otters and the Detroit River comeback

River Otter by Ashleigh Mowers

River Otter by Ashleigh Mowers

Great Lakes Now has an excellent feature on the return of river otters to the Detroit River that says (in part):

On the cool morning of April 25, doctoral student Eric Ste Marie from the University of Windsor’s department of integrative biology went out for a walk with his partner along the Detroit River prior to an anticipated long day in his lab. Much to his surprise, he saw an animal pop its head out of the water. It was too big to be a mink and, as it dove, he noticed that it did not have a flat beaver tail. Ste Marie ran out to the end of a pier beneath the Ambassador Bridge to get a closer look to check, and there it was: a river otter.

River otters were quite common in southeast Michigan, including the Detroit River, up through the arrival of European explorers and fur traders,” said Gearld P. Wykes, a historian from the Monroe County Museum System. “During the fur trade era, they were much sought after for their fur, along with beaver. Based on historical records, river otters were likely extirpated from the Detroit River in the early 1900s.”

In 1986, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reintroduced river otters into high water quality rivers and streams in eastern Ohio. The river otters thrived. As their population grew, they began to move westward – what scientists call expanding their range. By the early 2000s, they had found a home in western Ohio, particularly near Cedar Point and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Toledo.

…Biologists studying the Detroit River and resource managers have been excited about the possible range expansion of river otters into the Detroit River. There have been a few anecdotal reports from citizens, but no photographic or videographic proof until Ste Marie was greeted with that ecological surprise on the morning of April 25.

…River otters are considered an indicator species, and their return to the Detroit River after an absence of more than 100 years is a hopeful sign of improving watershed conditions.

Ashleigh took this back in 2016 in Detroit at the Detroit Zoo. Hopefully she gets a shot of them in the wild! See more in her Detroit gallery on Flickr & for sure check out her Go See Do Photography website for more great pics!

More about River otters on Michigan in Pictures.

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