River otters might be making a comeback in Boulder County

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BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. -- A threatened species of river otter has been spotted in Boulder County.

Northern river otters used to be common in the county but were hunted by trappers until they disappeared from the area about 100 years ago, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.

Nik Brockman with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said a long-term volunteer who helps monitor wildlife recently spotted a northern river otter on an open space property near the St. Vrain River.

"They are elusive and usually shy, although apparently this one was curious about her," Brockman said.

The volunteer described the encounter to CPW officials.

“The one recently seen near the St. Vrain River was not hunting, and appeared unusually brave and curious -- so perhaps either young and naive or one of those movie-hero type animals," the volunteer said.

"It swam back and forth with a flip of its graceful tail, examining closely the humans on the snowy bank nearby. Conclusions drawn, it headed away to explore the lake and no doubt nearby hiding places.”

Susan Spaulding, a wildlife biologist with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, said there are a few spots at higher elevations within the St. Vrain watershed where the otters have been seen intermittently since about 2011.

"This could explain our otter at our lower elevation property along the St. Vrain," Spaulding said.

The Daily Camera cited Colorado Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager Larry Rogstad as saying the number of recent sightings might be evidence of a "historic rebound."

Otters have also been spotted in the headwaters of North Boulder Creek and near the Peak to Peak Highway in recent years, according to the newspaper.

Spaulding said the sightings are exciting, but emphasized the importance of preserving and enhancing their habitat.

"If otters are establishing a permanent foothold in Boulder County, we are excited to continue enhancing their habitat. Having some individuals established won’t lead to full recovery, if suitable habitat isn’t there to support increasing numbers," he said.