Tuesday, January 18, 2022

DEC to Continue River Otter Surveys

otter tracksHave you ever seen a river otter in New York? Prior to the 1990s, river otter were absent from most of central and western New York. That all changed between 1995–2001, when DEC worked with trappers and other groups to reintroduce 279 otter to 16 different sites in central and western parts of the state.

To evaluate the success of this effort and to gain a better understanding of otter populations throughout New York, DEC staff conducted over 2,000 winter sign surveys across the state in 2017 and 2018. During these surveys, biologists and technicians looked for otter tracks, latrines, and other signs of otter presence on the landscape. These surveys found that otter were well-established across the entire state and could be found in almost all suitable habitat!

This winter, DEC staff are repeating the winter sign surveys. We will compare the results to the previous surveys, allowing us to get a better idea of otter population trends and help us better guide otter management into the future.

How You Can Help

In addition to the survey data, DEC collects public sighting data for river otter and other furbearer species. If you have seen an otter, fisher, bobcat, weasel, marten, or snowshoe hare in Upstate New York (or otter, beaver, gray fox, weasel, mink, coyote, or skunk in Long Island/NYC), we encourage you to report your sighting.

Photo: River otter tracks and slides in the snow.

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NYS DEC

Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.


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9 Responses

  1. Alan West says:

    DEC needs to reopen the otter season in the Catskills,Mohawk Valley, and western New York

  2. JT says:

    Learned something new. Did not know about the site to report animal sightings.
    Just reported a fisher sighting I had back in December while deer hunting.
    I am a firm believer in providing the NYSDEC information when requested to enable them to do a better job.

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “DEC needs to reopen the otter season…….”

    How anybody can kill such a beautiful creature is beyond me! I couldn’t imagine killing an otter just to kill it, or for a trophy, or for its fur. When John Lennon wrote, and sang his most wonderful song, “How do you sleep at night” it was directed towards this bunch!

  4. JB says:

    Thanks to DEC for keeping the public updated. These types of modern wildlife translocation efforts are notoriously unsuccessful, and the organizations involved seldom make much information available to the public. Here is an area where the entire scientific establishment could benefit tremendously from increased data sharing. There are still so many unknowns with these types of programs (population viability, genetic variability, ecosystem interactions, ethology, infectious disease). That being said, river otter (and spruce grouse) are good candidates for translocation. (Cervids are now out of the question due to CWD, and I think that there are too many unknowns to rush into reestablishing wolves and lynx.)

  5. Charlie Stehlin says:

    ” I think that there are too many unknowns to rush into reestablishing wolves and lynx.”

    It might not be such a bad idea for re-establishing wolves in the Adirondacks JB. It might keep them from extinction as out west they’re not too welcome. The mindset out there is, “Wolves are better off dead!” To some people there’s just no appreciation of our wild wonders JB, as the records show and history keeps revealing! Lennon wrote that same song for them too!

    In the Adirondacks they’d be safe. The mentality out west is do be done with them. Recall it took but 3 days to kill over 200 of them in Wisconsin not long before Biden stole the election from Trump. It’s not just death row inmates Trump wanted to see dead before he lost his power, it was wolves too. A mindset! It comes with the species. I’m all for wolves in the Adirondacks if it’s gonna save them.

    • JB says:

      Charlie, I’m not sure that wolves would be much safer in NYS than they are out west. Look at what has been happening with the Yosemite pack–there are few remaining since they are “harvested” as soon as they wander off of the National Park. There are no large tracts of land in NYS where hunting is banned similarly to Yosemite. I heard about a wolf that was trapped and killed in the southern Adirondacks in recent times and was subsequently confirmed as such by DEC. And, assuming a reintroduced population survived to become self-reproducing–an enormous ‘if’–hybridization with the surrounding and much larger coyote population would likely be significant. Coyote sport hunting is hugely popular in the North Country.

      My opposition to wolf reintroduction is more of an opposition to the science of–or lack of a science of–species introduction in general. Virtually all of the data from modern wildlife translocation efforts is hidden away from scientific scrutiny in private ‘gray literature’ that will likely never be published; and considering the HUGE risks involved with tampering with an ecosystem (notwithstanding the tu quoque that it has “already been tampered with”), we should not take it on the word of these organizations that their analysis (which itself is based on A LOT of extrapolation of inevitably inadequate wildlife monitoring data) is bulletproof. In the coming decades, I hope that the NYS philosophy heads further in the direction of caution that they have gone with cervids. Reintroducing elk as a big game opportunity and importing white-tail deer for private hunting reserves–once done with little skepticism–would now be considered absolute madness in light of what we have learned in the past 20 years about CWD. More recently, there are heightened–although subdued–concerns with fish stocking in light of aquatic invasives and evidence of hatchery-wild gene introgression. In my humble opinion, the current body of knowledge on things like ecosystem interactions, inbreeding, founder effect, hybridization are woefully inadequate to justify calling these types of management programs “rewilding”. The best way to rewild an ecosystem is to protect and restore habitat–preserve wildlife corridors, limit habitat disturbance, eliminate dams. But those are concessions that few will make if we are all convinced that shortcuts can reproduce exactly the same results.

      • Boreas says:

        JB,

        I agree. If you create a safe habitat that is not “managed”, but is truly wild, wild creatures will typically return on their own. But predators need to be left alone to kill their prey. If humans are unwilling to allow predator/prey cycles to prevail without active “management”, the places will never be wild. Eastern coyotes are helping to fill the ecological niche of wolves that were exterminated. Let them be – at least on the wild lands.

  6. Boreas says:

    “We will compare the results to the previous surveys, allowing us to get a better idea of otter population trends and help us better guide otter management into the future.”

    I am becoming less and less prone to sharing data with DEC until their “management” goals do not include future “harvesting” of the animals they are trying to reintroduce. If an ecosystem cannot provide natural predator/prey population control, introduction should not be considered.

  7. Charlioe Stehlin says:

    “My opposition to wolf reintroduction is more of an opposition to the science of–or lack of a science of–species introduction in general. ”

    > I was being facetious JB in what I said above. I feel that wolf introduction wouldn’t work in the Adirondacks. I think they need more wild space for one. I cannot define why I feel that, I just do. Gut instinct maybe!

    “The best way to re-wild an ecosystem is to protect and restore habitat–preserve wildlife corridors, limit habitat disturbance, eliminate dams.”

    > Back in the days when there were wolves in New York, there was also a lot of wilderness, and green corridors for them to wander through, to propagate…the whole northeast was one big howling wilderness. We chopped it all to pieces as we continue to do with what’s left. Science is important but not when it comes to economy. There’s been a campaign to kill them off since the 1600’s which the history reveals. I wish the wolves lots of luck as they are going to need it! That goes for all species outside of the ‘crazy ape’ man, and then….they are (the latter) going to eventually have to come to terms with major problems of their own, which will be, and is, of their own making!

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