SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– River otters are rare to see in person, but in just ten days, South Dakota met its river otter harvest limit for 2021.
Game, Fish and Parks reported 21 otters were trapped in the eastern side of the state.
It’s rare to come across river otters in South Dakota. When a wildlife enthusiast found a family of otters frolicking in the water, last month in Sioux Falls, he couldn’t believe it.
“They just followed me around up and down the shoreline; I’ve never seen otters in the wild in South Dakota,” Dan Griffith, wildlife enthusiast said.
The rarity of these otters is one reason river otter season such a unique experience for trappers.
“Everyone I talked to on the phone was pretty excited for at least the opportunity to harvest one. Guys were pretty happy when they got it and I think it went pretty well,” said Alex Solem, wildlife biologist.
“This is something that not many trappers have ever got to experience and it’s kind of a touch of South Dakota history as well,” said Nick Harrington, communications manager. “This is what our state was founded on was hunting and trapping beavers and otters and this is really that kind of taking a step back and living what our folks did long before we were even here.”
The season also allows Game Fish and Parks officers to gather important information about the river otter population.
“Anytime that you’re dealing with a species that just came off our state threatened list and initiated a new season we don’t want to do anything that will be detrimental to them,” Solem said. “It just kind of helps us gage how everything is going, how these critters are doing, and then overtime we should be able to develop some sort of trend on how their population status is and give us better insight on it.”
Each trapper can harvest one otter per year, until the statewide limit is reached. Once they have trapped that otter, they call the river otter number and then Game Fish and Parks biologist will help with the process of properly tagging the carcass.
They don’t have specifics limits and dates in place for next year’s season yet, but they will make those decisions after they analyze this year’s data.