Rare North American River Otter Caught Munching a Fish on Camera

First Posted: Apr 04, 2013 09:05 AM EDT

In Colorado, a hidden camera caught some rare images of an even rarer animal. The motion-activated device snapped a picture of a North American river otter while he was fishing. It's the first time an otter has been spotted in Boulder in about 100 years.

The North American river otter is a rare species in some areas. It makes its home in a burrow near the water's edge and can thrive in rivers, lakes, swamps or even estuaries. Possessing webbed feet and water repellant fur, they can swim through the water with ease and can hold their breath for up to eight minutes.

Over the years, though, the number of these otters has drastically declined. They've been affected greatly by habitat loss and are very sensitive to environmental pollution. In fact, reproductive organs of river otters in England are reduced in size possibly due to chemicals that have leeched into waterways. Yet perhaps the biggest factor in their decline was their role in the French fur trade in the 1700s and 1800s. While the hunting of this mammal has waned, there are still those who continue to trap them in certain areas.

This latest picture shows the river otter munching on a white sucker fish. While fish are a favorite food of these otters, they will also eat everything from amphibians to turtles to crayfish, feeding on whatever happens to be available.

"It actually sat in front of the camera for several more minutes, sitting there munching on the fishtail," said Christian Nunes, a wildlife ecology technician for Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, in an interview with The Denver Channel.

The otter definitely isn't camera shy. So far, it's been caught twice by the camera, which was first installed on February 1 along Boulder Creek. The fact that the otter is there shows promising signs for reestablishing the otter population in the area.

"We don't really have population estimates [for otters] anywhere in the state," said Eric Odell, the State Parks and Wildlife Species Conservation Program Manager for carnivores, in an interview with The French Tribune. "But they certainly didn't take on the Front Range as well as they did on the Western Slope."

Hopefully, the otter population will continue to spread throughout the rivers within the area. 

Want to see the image of the otter? Check it out here.

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