Ohio River Otter Captured in Putnam County


A male river otter was recently discovered by a trapper in Putnam County, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife. The otter was found along the Auglaize River, near Cloverdale, Ohio. This is the first verified report of an otter in Putnam County in recent history.

River otters are native to Ohio; however, they were extirpated from the state by the 1900’s. In 1986, the ODNR-Division of Wildlife began a seven year reintroduction program for river otters. In total, 123 river otters were captured and relocated from Arkansas and Louisiana using modern foothold traps. The otters were released in the Grand River, Killbuck Creek, Little Muskingum River, and Stillwater Creek. Since then, otters have been seen in two-thirds of Ohio’s counties.

River otters are very adapted for swimming. They have a long tapered body, webbed feet, and a long, flattened muscular tail that helps them swim. Otters can reach 38 to 58 inches in length, with 50 percent of their length being tail. They average 7 to 10 inches high and adults can weigh 11 to 33 pounds. In the wild, river otters generally live 10 to 15 years.

Otters generally feed on fish, aquatic insects, crayfish, snakes, frogs, and occasionally some waterfowl and small mammals.  Otters are usually nocturnal and feed at night; however, they will sometimes feed at twilight as well.

Due to the otter’s success in much of the state, the ODNR, Division of Wildlife recommended that river otters be removed from the State’s endangered species list in 2002. In 2005-2006, Ohio held its first regulated trapping season for river otters. Currently, in 2011-2012, 43 counties are open to trapping otters with bag limits of either 1 or 3 depending on the county. Successful trappers are required to present the otter pelt to the ODNR-Division of Wildlife within 72 hours of capture for tagging.

The river otter discovered in Putnam County was found in a raccoon snare located along the river bank. Snares and foothold taps do not cause captured animals to die; rather, they hold the animal until the trapper returns. Unfortunately, with all the recent rains, the Auglaize River flooded and the river otter drowned. Since Putnam County is closed to trapping for river otters, the trapper turned over the animal to the ODNR-Division of Wildlife.

The ODNR, Division of Wildlife continues to conduct research and monitor river otter populations within the state to ensure they remain healthy. A helicopter snow-track survey, a bridge-crossing survey, and public observation reports are all combined and utilized to keep track of the river otter populations here in Ohio.

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