25 years ago, the river otter was nearly extinct in Colorado and other western states, but Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently announced that the reintroduction of 120 young male and female otters a quarter century ago, the population has been growing.
The effort was state run in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
State-run reintroduction “has made a significant contribution to the conservation of river otters throughout the state of Colorado,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Leslie Ellwood.
“We’re now seeing river otters in streams and lakes where they had not been seen for the past 100 years.”
Currently there is no peer-reviewed study indicating their actual numbers, but the state has sightings of the otters in 38 out of 64 counties.
Their presence in so many different areas indicates that the habitat for otters is healthy enough for them to thrive.
Otters are a unique animal. They are what biologists call a “sentinel animal.” Sentinel animals indicate when environmental destruction has become too much and is likely to begin the tipping point for many species toward extinction.
When the river otters are doing well, the natural environment is also probably doing well, which is ideal not just for their recovery, but the recovery of other endangered species as well.