Historically, otters were present throughout Minnesota. Unfortunately, during the 1800s, demand for otters’ sleek and dense fur combined with wetland drainage destroyed the population in southern Minnesota. For nearly 100 years otters were locally extinct, a phenomenon called extirpation. Since then, otters in the U.S. have been monitored and their furs federally regulated.
Otters have been pushing their range southward on their own, but a large part of their reintroduction to southern Minnesota is due to the Department of Natural Resources. In the late 1970s, otters were live trapped and relocated to Southwest Minnesota. In total, 23 otters were caught and flown down to Lac qui Parle refuge where they were released. Due to the regulation and relocation effort, the population of otters is well established in many parts of southern Minnesota.
If you’re wondering about otters, they are the biggest aquatic carnivores in Minnesota; they live in lakes, ponds, and streams. Otters are excellent swimmers and can outmaneuver fish! They like to eat fish, clams, muskrats, turtles and even other small mammals like chipmunk, mice and young rabbits. An otter generally is 4 to 5 feet long and weighs around 15 to 19 pounds. Otters are playful and spend hours sliding around snowbanks, pushing sticks across the water, and dropping pebbles into water so they can dive for them.
The big takeaway is that we have otters in the Arb! New evidence from past years indicates their presence, but we still haven’t caught them on camera. Distinct tracks of long slides with bounding footprints in between and fish left on the ice where they were hunting and eating lead us to believe that they are here. Take a walk in Arb, preferably near the river, and keep an eye out for a frolicking otter.