You Otter Know: All About Michigan’s River Otters and Where to Find Them
In the latest installment of "I was today year's old when I learned..." we learn about otters and how they actually live and thrive among Michigan wildlife!
It all started when Mackinac Island TikToker, @baileyyjanette, shared this series of photos and videos on her Instagram (click arrow to look through them all):
Now, to some this information may elicit a "duh, how did you NOT know that!?" but to others, it's more of a "WHAT!? WHERE!?"
Of course, we took to the internet to find out everything we could about Michigan's otters and share them with you.
What Kinds of Otters are in Michigan?
You've more than likely seen them at various zoos and aquariums but as far as otters you're likely to see in the wild here in Michigan go, those would be North American River Otters.
Of course, by their name alone, they thrive where there is water and, luckily, Michigan has no shortage of that. Because of their habitat, you can easily assume that fish make up most of their diet.
According to Environment Michigan, the North American River Otters' "streamlined bodies" and their lengthy tails make them really great swimmers. Their coat is also something special as it is not only thick and warm, but waterproof as well.
The properties of their coats is actually what made/makes them common targets for fur trapping which was once not as regulated as it is today, and almost led to their extinction.
As you've seen at an aquarium and/or zoo, otters are very, very playful and cute! However, they are much more than that, as they are also "a key indicator of the health of a waterway," Environment Michigan reports. "River otters are not found in highly-polluted watersheds."
Where to Find Wild Otters in Michigan
According to The Mining Journal, in 2014, otters were on Michigan's endangered species list. However, they did also report, "their numbers have been increasing over the past several years.”
As far as where you are most likely to find otters here in Michigan, “Otters are most abundant in the Upper Peninsula and quite common in the northern Lower Peninsula and in many watersheds in the southern Lower Peninsula,” The Mining Journal reported.
Based on the photos and information provided above, you are more likely to see North American River Otters in clean, crisp waters of Northern Michigan than in other areas where the water may be more polluted. However, they can be spotted a little further south, like in the Grand River:
Conservation of Michigan's River Otters
Once upon a time, North American River Otters were on Michigan's endangered species list. However, according to a report by Great Lakes Now, titled "Great Lakes Moment: River otters return to western Lake Erie", otters were thriving in the Lake Erie area which is a good indicator of their status in parts of Michigan, Ohio and Canada.
The Michigan DNR has also set specific dates and limits on when trapping otters in Michigan is allowed based on their location(s).
Just in 2021, the Smithsonian Channel was able to share footage of a North American River Otter preparing to thrive in a Michigan winter:
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