River otters making great comeback in Ohio

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COLUMBUS – Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife biologists are recommending otters be removed from Ohio’s endangered species list.

The Wildlife Council will vote on the proposal April 10.

Native Ohioans. River otters are native Ohio furbearers, once common throughout the state. Poor water quality, stream pollution and deforestation during the late 1800s and early 1900s caused their disappearance from Ohio. Clean rivers, streams, ponds and lakes with abundant forage fish are the key ingredients for otters’ survival.

Now found in 52 counties, river otters are known to be reproducing in at least 10 watersheds.

You otter know… Otters can grow as large as 3 feet in length and Ohio otters typically weigh 20 to 25 pounds, with males being somewhat larger than females.

Adult females normally give birth to three or four pups per year, but have been known to give birth to as many as six.

Reintroduction. In 1986, the Ohio Division of Wildlife began reintroduction efforts by acquiring otters from other states and releasing them into watersheds that had been identified to have suitable otter habitat.

Between 1986 and 1993, 123 river otters were released in four eastern Ohio watersheds: the Grand River (Trumbull and Ashtabula counties), Killbuck Creek (Wayne and Holmes counties), Stillwater Creek (Harrison County), and the Little Muskingum River (Washington County).

Ohio wildlife biologists conduct aerial surveys during the winter, and keep records of sightings of river otters.

Chris Dwyer, river otter project manager, conservatively estimates Ohio’s otter population is now at least 2,100 animals.

In other states. Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana have each conducted similar relocation and reintroduction efforts. Several otters have been reported in Ohio near the Ohio/Indiana border. These animals most likely came from Indiana’s release efforts.

Some otters might also have come from Michigan, where a viable population has continued to exist.

Other native animals scarce in Ohio 100 years ago and now re-established include the wood duck, bald eagle, wild turkey and the white-tailed deer.

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