Otter spotted in the Detroit River, a hopeful sign

May 22, 2022
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A University of Windsor student recently caught an extraordinary sight on video while on a walk near the Ambassador Bridge.

“A straight-up river otter in the Detroit River!” Eric Ste Marie says in the footage, taken on April 25. “Have you ever heard of something so controversial?”

He added, “It’s the last thing I was expecting.”

While the semi-aquatic mammals were once a common sight in Michigan, they were heavily hunted along with beavers during the fur trade of the 1800s. By the early 20th century, they were largely eradicated from the Detroit River, according to Great Lakes Now.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources started reintroducing otters to rivers in the state in 1986, and the species repopulated, spreading west. In 2019, they were spotted at Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, the first time they had been seen there since 1918.

Ste Marie’s sighting on April 25 was the first photographic evidence of an otter in the Detroit River in recent years, according to Great Lakes Now.

Environmentalists view the sighting as a hopeful sign of the river healing from pollution from the industrial age.

“The Detroit Zoo is so excited to hear that the Detroit River is now clean enough for river otters and is committed to working with regional partners to further conservation efforts, including for river otters,” the Detroit Zoo’s Elizabeth Arbaugh told Great Lakes Now.

Beavers have also been making a comeback in the Detroit River, appearing on Belle Isle for the first time in a century about a decade ago. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources killed four beavers living along the river to control their population on the island park, which has seen damage to trees and flooding.

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