SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — River otters were once on the threatened species list in South Dakota. But as we reported last year, thanks to a resurgence in their population, they were recently removed from that list.

Up until now, we’ve only been able to spot river otters on trail cams, but that all changed this morning when our wildlife photographer, Kevin Kjergaard got up early Thursday morning with his camera and captured something most of us may never get to see in person.

As the sun broke early this morning, there was already a web of activity taking place out on the water.

“Instead of diving underwater and disappearing they came up to me,” retired biology teacher and wildlife enthusiast Dan Griffith said.

A family of otters frolicking up and down in the water.

Retired biology teacher and wildlife enthusiast Dan Griffith 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,” Griffith said.

We are keeping the exact location of this body of water a secret to protect them and let them play and feed.

“I think they are snarfing down a lot of frogs, this area is covered with frogs on the land in the daytime,” Griffith said.

They poke their heads up and down looking for more food perhaps or just to see who is watching them.

“They are very curious critters,” Delger said. “It’s very cool to have them back and they are definitely expanding their population,” Regional Wildlife Supervisor Josh Delger said.

It used to be rare to see one otter, let alone five.

“You could spend a lot of time on the river and never see one, and not even know they’re there, but they’re definitely there now,” Delger said.

That’s exactly why Griffith and our wildlife photographer got up early to witness mother nature and her sometimes hidden gems that are otterly beautiful.

“I felt very lucky, I felt blessed,” Griffith said.

An otter’s life expectancy is somewhere between four and five years, but some do live longer.