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River otter staging a comeback in Indiana

River Otter. | IndianDepartment Natural Resources~For Sun-Times Media









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River Otter. | Indiana Department of Natural Resources~For Sun-Times Media ptmet

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Updated: January 26, 2013 6:03AM



After disappearing from the state for more than 50 years, river otters are making a comeback in Indiana due to reintroduction efforts by the Department of Natural Resources.

River otters were a common site in Indiana wetlands, said Shawn Rossler, fur-bearer biologist with the DNR, but as European settlers used the land for agriculture, drastic changes to the environment and unregulated harvesting caused the species to become scarce. By 1942, the animal was considered wiped out from the state.

“River otters are dependent on aquatic systems and forested areas,” Rossler said, “and the rivers, lakes, and areas were changed. There were some rivers that were completely devoid of vegetation.”

In 1995, wildlife officials started a strategic release of river otters. Three hundred and three otters were live-captured from Louisiana and released at 12 sites divided between northern and southern Indiana.

The critter began to spread throughout the state. In 2005, the state removed the otter from the endangered species list. They now occupy more than 80 percent of Indiana counties, according to Scott Johnson, non game biologist with the DNR.

“It’s now been seven years since de-listing,” Johnson said, “and all our information indicates the otter population continues to expand.”

Some may find an otter to be a nuisance, since they could eat fish in private ponds. Last year, the department received 34 complaints of the animal either eating fish from private ponds and commercial fish hatcheries or destroying private property. Wildlife managers can offer control permits to remove the animal, but Rossler said they’re not easy to get. The animal can’t be killed or trapped without a permit, and only 10 permits were issued in 2012.

“They’re not just handed out,” he said, “you have to confirm the signs, we also talk to the property owners about other ways to solve the problem, and if that doesn’t work, then they could receive the permit.”



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