Conservation and Trapping News

River otters spotted at Triangle Lake Bog State Nature Preserve in Portage County
Jan 19, 2023 10:56 ET

[Reprinted from original]

In the photos, their brown fur is shiny and wet, their heads upturned as they make direct eye contact with the photographer, looking inquisitive.

Their webbed feet stand on fallen logs in the water, with their long tails submerged.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said on Facebook that river otters were seen in the Triangle Lake Bog State Nature Preserve in Rootstown in Portage County last week.

Triangle Lake Bog, a “kettle hole” bog, has a cold deepwater lake at its center that's more than 35 feet deep. It has 0.3 miles of hiking trails.

Here are some fun facts about North American river otters, courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

What do river otters look like?
River otters, which range in weight from 11 to 33 pounds, are highly adapted for swimming, with a long, tapered body; sleek, short fur; a small head; large, webbed feet; and a flattened, muscular tail that makes up about 50% of the total body length.

What do river otters eat?
River otters are carnivores that typically eat fish, aquatic insects, crayfish, snakes, frogs and to a lesser extent waterfowl and mammals.

Where do river otters live?
River otters live in aquatic habitats, like rivers, lakes and marshes, and can live in both marine and freshwater environments. They prefer tributaries of major, unpolluted drainages where there's minimal human disturbance, with log jams and submerged trees providing resting and feeding habitat. Dens are often in abandoned beaver lodges and bank dens.

When are river otters active?
River otters are generally nocturnal (active at night) or crepuscular (active at dawn or dusk). But diurnal (daytime) activity isn't uncommon in undisturbed areas.

When are baby river otters born?
Breeding occurs in early spring following the birth of a litter. Newborn pups are silky black, blind, toothless and helpless, but they grow rapidly and emerge from the den at two months old. Litters are cared for by the female otter.

River otters are often seen in family groups in the summer and early fall. Young otters are self-sufficient by five to six months, but the family group remains intact for at least seven to eight months or until just before the birth of a new litter. Yearling otters can disperse up to 20 miles or more from where they were reared.

Where can I see river otters in Ohio?
River otters were once common in Ohio, but their populations were severely reduced in the mid-1800s due to habitat loss and unregulated trapping, and they'd become very rare by 1900.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife initiated a reintroduction program in 1986, releasing 47 pregnant females and 76 males in eastern Ohio from 1986 to 1993. The otters were trapped in Arkansas and Louisiana and released in four eastern Ohio waterways: Grand River (Trumbull County), Killbuck Creek (Wayne and Holmes counties), Stillwater Creek (Harrison County) and Little Muskingum River (Washington County).

Since then, Ohio’s river otter population has increased rapidly, and in 2002, the river otter was removed from Ohio’s list of endangered species.

River otters have been confirmed in 83 of Ohio's 88 counties — including Summit, Portage, Medina, Stark and Wayne counties — with the largest populations near the original release site watersheds, including the Grand River watershed in Northeast Ohio and the Little Muskingum River watershed in Eastern Ohio.

The first modern-day trapping season for river otters in Ohio occurred in 2005-2006 in eastern Ohio, with trapping made available statewide during the 2018-2019 season. ODNR said it's a "a highly regulated and limited trapping season."