Daniel Johnson of Grand Forks sent me a photo and a video clip of river otters he has been watching from the walking bridge that crosses the Red River downstream from the Riverside Dam rapids.
He described the encounters in an email as follows:
“The day before Thanksgiving, I was on my normal afternoon walk and as I started across the north end pedestrian bridge from the EGF side I happened to look down on the small island of ice underneath the bridge. I thought I saw a black lab sitting in the middle of the ice eating something. That’s what it looked like from above. I whistled at it and it looked up and I realized from the narrow face and light colored hair on its lower mouth area it was an otter.
“It ran into the water and I watched it dive in the brown water. I stepped back and hid for a bit and it came back up on the edge of the ice looking for me. I got a few pictures and some video but it was pretty concerned about me. This was at 4:30 p.m. the afternoon before Thanksgiving. I walked the same route the next two days and saw it again. On Sunday afternoon (Nov. 30), I had my binoculars with and watched four of them playing in the Red, about 200 to 300 yards north of the bridge, behind the old Pillsbury plant.”
This past Thursday afternoon,Johnson said he saw another otter, this time sitting on the ice along the edge of the river about 30 feet below the dam and upstream from the walking bridge. The otter was sitting on the ice eating what appeared to be a fish, Johnson writes.
“It saw me and darted around for a bit and went swimming,” Johnson said. “Fun to watch.”
I’ve also seen otters along the Red River, and they are indeed fun to watch. UND Professor Emeritus of Biology Robert Seabloom, in his book, “The Mammals of North Dakota,” writes that river otters never were abundant in North Dakota but historically were present in all of the state’s major streams. Numbers declined to the point where there were only two reports of otter sightings in the early 1960s, Seabloom writes, but river otters in recent years have become more abundant.
“There have been numerous reports of river otters from the Red, Sheyenne, Missouri and Souris rivers and nearby wetlands,” Seabloom writes in his book. “Of these, most have been since the year 2000.”