Salt Lake Tribune • November 25, 2009
by Brett Prettyman
With Lloyd and his fishing partner, Kendra Willmarth, just downstream, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) released a northern river otter late Wednesday afternoon.
The young and possibly pregnant female otter, caught Tuesday morning on the Green River in northeastern Utah, emerged from her travel canister and immediately set about exploring her new home. She took a quick dip and then came back to shore and wandered around the rocks before finding a nice place to roll in the grass.
Biologists had expected her to dart out of the cage into the river and rarely be seen again, so it was a surprise to have her posing for the cameras for so long.
"No. 1," as she will be known by the Brigham Young University staff that will track her for the next three years, is part of project by Utah Wildlife in Need that will bring 15 to 30 of the animals to the Provo.
"This is a nice milestone. It is really nice to kick this project off," said Justin Dolling, game mammal coordinator for the DWR. "This is an outstanding environment for otters. They will fit in very well here and it is a native species returning to a place it hasn't been for a long time."
Otters will find plenty to eat in the Provo. There are ample crayfish, one of their favorite foods, and numerous fish.
Lloyd said it was an unexpected pleasure to see the otter and he doesn't mind sharing the water and the fish with the furry mammal.
"It is a natural species so there is no big problem," he said. "The otters and the fish will balance each other out. There will end up being a harmony."
Other anglers are not so sure. Some anglers and guides on the Provo fear that otters will decimate what has become known as a world-class brown trout fishery.
Wildlife biologists do not think that will happen and say they will act accordingly if the fish population drops drastically due to the otters.
"We are not a single species management agency. We are here for all wildlife," said Mike Slater, aquatics director for the DWR's central region. "There are some people worried about the potential impacts on the trout fishery and we have looked at that. We do annual monitoring on the Provo and if we see a population dropoff and can't explain it any other way than otters, then we will deal it."
State biologists have been asking fly fishers to keep some fish to help reduce population, but have seen little response. As a result, they say the trout are stunted in growth due to limited food resources. The otters may fill that need, and the end result could be a healthier population with larger fish.
None of that matters to Willmarth, who was enjoying her first day of fly fishing.
"It adds to the experience to see them," said the Centerville resident. "It fits right in with the fly fishing deal of really being in nature. It was cool to be able to see one."