Pennsylvania Game News - April 2013 - 21
RiveR OtteR ManageMent Plan
Pennsylvania’s river otter management plan is being developed. The
plan will provide an overview of river otter biology, habitat, history, resource value, and population management. The management plan also
will provide the necessary direction to achieve enhanced populations,
habitat, and monitoring, increased public awareness and knowledge of
otters, and sustained resource opportunities for both consumptive and
non-consumptive users of this valuable furbearer.
Our otter management mission is to establish stable otter populations
in balance with their habitat for the benefit of other wildlife species and
humans through proper monitoring, population management, and
damage control. Harvest management will be considered in the plan.
Only through careful planning and sound science will we maintain a
healthy balance between otters and human interests, and establish and
manage sustained river otter populations for future generations. When
completed, a draft of the management plan will be made available for
public comment on the agency’s website: www.pgc.state.pa.us
— By PGC Biologist Tom Hardisky
Otters do not hibernate in the winter,
and are active year-round.
“Here is an example of where an
otter came up to play in the grass,”
Warner said, as we follow alongside
Splashdam Pond. “The grasses are
compacted at the slides.” We walk past
a number of these ‘dining areas’ where
the otters crawled out of the water for
a lunch break, or just to nose around,
using their hind feet to push up. If the
water in the area around the hole is not
real dark, but clear, it’s a spot where
they go in and out. It could be an active beaver den or an otter took over. If
the trail is wide, it is a beaver. Usually,
Warner can tell who is using the trail.
I have to take his word for it. Trappers
know. It is their business to know. They
seldom set a bank den and here they are
every 10 feet apart. Pennsylvania fur
trappers are not allowed to take otters.
Where the creek makes an elbow,
a flattened 20-yard raceway stretches
from one streamside bank to the other.
Otters take shortcuts. They’re not
going to stay in the water, like the
beaver, keeping the stream company as it makes a wide meandering
turn. They’re going to hop out and
make a shortcut across the bend.
Besides, it’s a chance to investigate
what is going on up top, perhaps
something interesting. Otters are
“This crossover is proof that
otters are here,” Warner explained,
“and not just beavers. Beavers simply would not get out of the water.”
Warner pointed out the row of
quaking aspen 100 yards away, the
beaver’s favorite bark. Deer trails
intersect the otter slides. A fresh
bear bed compressed the grasses
where the bruin took a nap.
When exploring otter territory,
it is difficult not to also hold beavers foremost in your mind. They
consistently use the same habitat.
The two species coexist like broth21