Here’s Where You Can Observe River Otters in Colorado
Earlier this year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife was excited to announce that after being non-existent for many years, river otters have successfully made a comeback throughout the Centennial State.
More than a hundred years ago, fur trapping was a way of life for people in Colorado. The luxurious, thick hides of otters were worth a lot of money, making them extremely sought after. Unfortunately, as a result, unlimited trapping ultimately led to river otters vanishing from the state.
In the 1970s, wildlife officials began attempts to reintroduce the species to Colorado. During a fifteen-year period, dozens of otters were brought here from other states. As top river predators, they are important mammals for Colorado to have. Otters help control populations of the species they prey on and also play a critical role in gauging river health.
Through CPW's continual efforts, these semi-aquatic animals are once again thriving throughout the state. The species is even spreading on its own, which wildlife officials are calling a huge conservation win.
Although the overall population of river otters has increased in Colorado, they still aren't animals that are seen all too often. Despite being difficult to keep tabs on, wildlife experts continue to monitor and study their populations as best as they can.
Otters living in Colorado tend to make their homes near water where there's lush vegetation on the banks, floating logs, and tall trees that provide shade.
Wildlife watchers hoping to observe otters in their natural habitat can start by visiting some of the locations where these playful river dwellers are known to reside.
The yellow dots on the map indicate where otters have been seen in Colorado between 1976-2017. Confirmed sightings have continued to increase since then too.
Both Grand County and Mesa County appear to be hotspots for these small mammals. There have also been many otter sightings in Eagle County, in various areas of Colorado's Western Slope, and along the river banks in Boulder. Additionally, more and more residents have been witnessing otters across the Front Range and in waterways west of the Continental Divide.
In the winter, you can look for signs of river otters by checking near water for six to ten-inch-wide slide marks on the snow, ice, or mud, followed by tracks. Sometimes there will be a line between the tracks from the otter's tail. You can also scan for tracks where there is a hole in the ice, and follow the slide marks.