River otters on the rise

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — You may not see them very often, but river otters are out there and here’s the evidence.

This is an otter slide and during this time of year if you walk along any river bank in eastern KELOLAND, you might see one, because river otters are making a comeback.

Game, Fish and Parks’ trail cameras have captured video and pictures of romps of river otters in recent months along the Big Sioux River.

“They’re a lot of fun to watch if you get the chance to watch them, they are active all year round through the ice, under the water and they’re active all year round in the daylight hours too,” Game, Fish and Parks wildlife biologist Randy Johnson said.

Randy Johnson is a wildlife biologist for Game, Fish, and Parks. He says otters are good for a river’s eco-system.

“They eat fish, frogs, those types of things; spend most of their time in and out of the water,” Johnson said.

Dave Kull of Brandon, who likes to go on hikes down by the river with his dog, is entertained by them.

“I’ve seen, I’ve seen a number of otter slides through out this area back here and have spotted some otters,” Kull said.

He says they’re fun to watch in their winter playground if you can catch them in the act.

“They are somewhat elusive, you see the signs of them, but rarely do you actually see them, I think they probably try to avoid us,” Kull said.

We brought our drone out to fly along the river to get a bird’s eye view to see if we could spot any playing along the river banks. We didn’t see any, but we did see plenty of tracks and slides.

The reason river otter numbers are up is because about 20 years ago a local tribe released several of them into the Big Sioux River as a way to manage and cleanup the river and now that the numbers are up, the Game, Fish and Parks is considering its next step.

Right now river otters are on the state’s threatened species list, meaning you can’t hunt or trap them, but that might change.

“Within the next year, the Game, Fish and Parks is looking at proposing to the commission to remove river otters from the threatened species list in South Dakota and revise our management plan, to include monitoring techniques to make sure river otters continue to thrive,” Johnson said.

River otters are native to South Dakota and through good management and reproduction, the Game, Fish and Parks is confident that otters are thriving in eastern South Dakota right now.

But they do rely heavily on reports from the public, so if you do see one or a romp of them, you are asked to report it.

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