Here's some good news from nature. For the first time in over 100 years, healthy river otter have been spotted in the Detroit River.

Overhunting For Their Pelts All But Eliminated The River Otter

Known for their smooth skins, the common river otter was over hunted and trapped by fur traders, and the last river otter was spotted on the Detroit River in the early 1900s.

“River otters were quite common in southeast Michigan, including the Detroit River, up through the arrival of European explorers and fur traders,” Gearld P. Wykes, a historian from the Monroe County Museum System told Great Lakes Now. “During the fur trade era, they were much sought after for their fur, along with beaver. Based on historical records, river otters were likely extirpated from the Detroit River in the early 1900s.”

That's why it was surprising news to conservationists that footage of a lone river otter swimming near the Ambassador Bridge was posted to the internet this weekend.

John Hartig of the Detroit River Conservacy told the Detroit News. "They were gone, and they were gone for a long time."

A Canadian Student Spotted The Otter While On A Walk Along The River

Erik Ste. Marie studies biology at the University of Windsor, so he's familiar with the wildlife along the river. He was stunned to see the otter on the morning of April 25.

“It was the last thing I was expecting to see,” Ste Marie told Great Lakes Now.

He first thought it was a beaver, but it lacked the long flat tail, so he immediately thought it had to be a river otter.

“As a local resident, it makes me hopeful that the Detroit River ecosystem is healing and that soon these types of sightings may become more common,” Ste Marie said.

River Otters Are Common Up North And Have Returned To The Grand River

The playful, and very intelligent river otters have long made rivers up north home, and are well known to kayakers who often see them frolicking in ponds and waterways from Traverse City to the Upper Peninsula. They are friendly and curious and will swim up to kayaks to get at what is going on.

There have been quite a few sightings along the Grand River of river otters, going all the way back to 2014.

The otter sightings are a hopeful sign that both the Detroit and Grand River watersheds are becoming improved to support more wildlife.

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