SEYMOUR, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is considering allowing a trapping season for river otters less than two decades after the animal was reintroduced.
Wildlife officials say the growing number of river otters, which were officially considered extinct in the state in 1942, have begun to cause problems for some landowners.
“River otters are an important part of our natural environment; but as their numbers increase, so do conflicts with private pond owners and other fishery related interests,” Shawn Rossler, a furbearer specialist with the DNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife told The Tribune of Seymour.
The state has proposed a limited trapping season for river otters in 2015 and to allow for the sale of river otter furs.
“A closely managed, highly regulated trapping season is the best option to bring the needs of the public in balance with wildlife,” Rossler said.
The animals are found in 74 of Indiana’s 92 counties, DNR communications directors Phil Bloom said.
Otters populate areas near rivers, lakes, ponds and streams to have a plentiful food source of fish, turtles, frogs and crayfish. But if too many otters are in an area, they can deplete it of those resources. Bloom said that can cause a problem, especially for commercial fish hatcheries and private fishing areas.
“It appears that they can totally clean out small streams, lakes and even the river of fish,” said Don Walker of Seymour, who fishes at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. “They are not at risk from predators, and they are protected; so they are allowed to do as they please. The little guys are cute, but as with all wildlife they will reproduce and eat lots.”
River otters can’t currently be hunted in Indiana unless a nuisance wild animal control permit is issued. In 2012, the state granted 11 such permits to property owners. That number rose in 2013 to 21, Bloom said.
If approved, trapping would be allowed only in counties where otter populations have reached a certain threshold and trappers would be able to harvest only two otters each season, Bloom said. The proposal is still under review by the Natural Resources Commission.