By JOHN WISSE|
Ohio Division of Wildlife
COLUMBUS, Ohio - River otters are making a comeback in Ohio thanks to reintroduction efforts that began in 1986.
Citing its commitment to restoring certain native species of wildlife to the state, the Ohio Division of Wildlife released 123 otters from 1986 through 1993 in the watersheds of the Grand River in Trumbull County, Killbuck Creek in Wayne County, Little Muskingum River in Monroe County, and Stillwater Creek in Harrison County.
Though unable to provide an estimated population size, the Division of Wildlife says it has received reports of otters observed in 43 of Ohio's 88 counties, mostly in northeast Ohio. A total of 47 otter observation reports were received from 21 counties last year.
"We have a good distribution and there have been families of river otters observed in various watersheds, including those areas where these animals were released. We're even getting a few nuisance reports of otters from private landowners whose fish ponds have been raided as a food source," said Chris Dwyer, a state wildlife biologist at the Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station in Oak Harbor.
River otters have been reported elsewhere in the state, including Paulding, Shelby, Butler, Pickaway, Franklin, Scioto, Adams, Brown, and Clermont counties. Reports of several fish ponds that were raided by river otters last fall came from Monroe and Noble counties.
"There's no telling how far these otters have traveled throughout the state, but we do know in a few cases where otters have shown up more than 100 miles from their release site. Once they get into the larger watersheds like the Ohio, Muskingum, and Scioto rivers, there's no telling how far river otters may travel," said Dwyer.
The Division of Wildlife continues to monitor the otter population using several methods that include an otter observation reporting system, bowhunter survey, and analysis of necropsy information. This winter, the wildlife agency is working in cooperation with some private landowners to monitor small bridges in select watersheds for tracks and other signs of otters present in a specific area.
"Necropsies of road-killed otters and those that are accidentally caught in beaver traps will also provide important information on age, sex ratios, and signs of reproduction. Our bowhunter survey simply asks participating hunters to note their observations of river otters and other wildlife species while deer hunting in October and November," said Dwyer.
The most important information concerning river otters comes from Ohio residents who report their observations to the Division of Wildlife. People who see river otters are encouraged to contact a regional wildlife district office, or call the toll-free 1-800-WILDLIFE information line with their report.
While listed as an endangered species in Ohio, the number of river otters appears to be on the increase and may provide a very unique wildlife viewing opportunity. Other wildlife species recently reintroduced to Ohio include the trumpeter swan, osprey, and Karner blue butterfly. The snowshoe hare is to be reintroduced this winter to parts of Ashtabula and Geauga counties.