River otters reappear

River otters

River otters are fairly rare in Clermont County, but there was a sighting Feb. 9 at Crooked Run Nature Preserve. This photo, from March 2016, captured the last sighting in the area.

CHILO – Some uncommon recent sightings at Chilo Lock 34 Park had birders out in the field in the southernmost part of Clermont County.

Now add a relatively rare mammal appearance to the list for nature lovers to see.

“We spotted two river otters in the backwater of Crooked Run around sunset (on Feb. 9),” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “We watched them for couple minutes before we lost sight.

“Sightings of river otter have been fairly rare in southwest Ohio, but have been increasing. They were reintroduced to the eastern portion of the state in the 1980s and have been spreading ever since.”

The last river otter sightings at Crooked Run happened in March of 2016; local photographer Richard Payne Jr. shared the image adjacent to this story back then.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the sunset timing of the sighting makes sense. Seeing them in the southwestern part of the state is a bit more rare

“Their primarily nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn) lifestyle makes observations of otters difficult,” said the ODNR website. “However, they can occasionally be seen during the day sunning along a shore, or playfully swimming in the water.

“In 1986, the Ohio Division of Wildlife began a seven-year project to reintroduce the species to the state. Over this period, 123 otters were captured in Arkansas and Louisiana using modern foothold traps and released in the Grand River, Killbuck Creek, Little Muskingum River and Stillwater Creek.

“Since then, river otters have been sighted in nearly two-thirds of Ohio’s counties and young otters or family groups have been seen throughout eastern Ohio.”

According to Park District records, it’s been a little more than 10 years since river otter first reappeared in Clermont County in January of 2009.

“The presence of river otters in Crooked Run Creek and the Ohio River marks another successful comeback of one of Ohio’s native wildlife species,” according to the Park District’s 2009 spring newsletter.

River otters reach sizes up to 50 inches in length and weigh 20 to 25 pounds on average. They prefer tributaries of large river systems with wooded riverbanks. Their webbed feet and muscular tails make them excellent aquatic acrobats.

Part of the Park District mission is to preserve natural areas to provide the necessary habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.

“It’s always neat to see something out of the ordinary,” Clingman said. “We are fortunate to have a lot of habitats friendly to many different kinds of wildlife.”