Over the past several years, there have been numerous sightings of river otters along the Crowsnest River. A lot of these reports have come from anglers, who have been encountering them while fishing. Earlier this year, I went out looking for some otters that had just been spotted along the river, east of the shop. Naturally, they were gone by the time I arrived. Today was a different story, though. This time they were waiting for me.

Otter, checking me out

Mama or papa otter, along with a young one, checking me out

When I first saw the otters, they were sunning themselves on a large boulder along the water’s edge, about 75 yards away. Actually, they saw me first and by the time I realized what they were (at first, I thought they were mergansers), they were already sliding into the water. It appeared to be a family, numbering four or five in total. I was amazed at how effortless they were able to swim.  “Graceful” and “powerful” is how I would describe their swimming ability.  They seemed curious, yet wary of my presence. Once in the water, one of them barked at the others and then they all paddled upstream in my direction. They swam within thirty yards of me, close enough for a good view, but not quite close enough for a good photo. Too bad I didn’t have my long lens. Once their curiosity was satisfied, they turned around and headed back downstream. I quickly walked to the corner, hoping to catch another glimpse, but they were nowhere to be seen. Pretty neat encounter, I’d say. The fishing was pretty good afterward, but seeing the otters was the highlight of the day!

I suspect otters were common along the Crowsnest River at one time and there’s probably plenty of reasons why they haven’t been seen in these parts for many years. I’ve heard there’s some people, including a few anglers, who are not particularly happy they’re back. This is probably because they feel otters are a threat to the fishery. I disagree and believe there’s room for fish and otters to co-exist. But then again, these are likely the same people who don’t like grizzly bears, wolves or bull trout.