The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
In our first two articles on Otters we learned about their re-introduction and their rapid re-populating of their former habitat. In fact otters were a little too successful at finding food sources, especially when it came to farm ponds and Ozark streams. After reintroduction, the Conservation Department handled over 500 hundred otter complaints in one year. The news was full of stories with headlines like “Ozark Otter Disaster.”
The first regulated trapping season was initiated in 1996 in spite of the efforts of animal rights groups in the courts. Furbearer biologist Dave Hamilton remembered,
“By 1998, however, we realized that the two-month-long trapping season wasn’t enough, so we formed a citizen advisory committee to help find a solution. The committee, composed of otter enthusiasts, anglers, county commissioners, an animal rights activist, fisheries and wildlife biologists, stream ecologists, crayfish experts, university professors, graduate students, a trapper and a few local business owners, worked together to tackle the problem.”
Otter trapping zones were set up to limit the season and the take in areas of the state where populations were where they needed to be, and the season was lengthen on Ozark streams with no limit on take. When fur prices went above $100 for otters, trappers increased their efforts as well.
Missouri's Otter population had rocketed from less than 100 animals to a peak between 15,000 and 18,000 animals.
Dave Hamilton wrote in 2007, “The statewide otter population is now closer to our goal of 10,000. In most streams, densities are about one otter per mile, and our fisheries managers report that fish populations look good.
Reducing their numbers has made otters nicer neighbors. People tolerate them better, and even many anglers admit they don’t mind sharing a few fish with them.” Suggested reading: Missouri's Otter Saga, by Dave Hamilton on MDC's website.