Historic otter season dampened by weather

Posted on: March 16, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Blog--OttersPennsylvania Game Commission
The 2017 otter season will be a full eight days long, if the recommendation of biologists is approved next month.

Pennsylvania’s first otter trapping season in 65 years didn’t go as well as it could have.

But it was far from disappointing.

Matt Lovallo, game mammals section supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said as much in days after it closed.

The season was held – or was supposed to be held – over three days, from Feb. 21-23, in wildlife management units 3C and 3D in northeastern Pennsylvania. The commission extended it five additional days, one at a time, so that it ran through Feb. 28.

The goal was to take up to 85 otters.

Trappers got 46, even with the extensions.

Lovallo said there were a couple of reasons for that, the first being weather. Trappers took 11 otters on the first day of the season and 12 on the second.

The third day saw one to five inches of rain across the region, however. That was followed by ice.

The harvest fell to eight on day three and never went above five any day thereafter.

A by-design limit on the number of traps trappers could set and the habits of otters – they travel circuits and may not appear at the same site for days – were also factors, Lovallo said.

There was another, too. The commission sold otter permits to 1,047 trappers, but “a proportion, probably large, of otter permit holders did not attempt to trap otters,” reads a commission report.

“We will survey permit holders to determine what proportion actually trapped and how many bought permits to show their support of otter management or as a memento of the first otter season in recent history,” Lovallo said.

Thirty-one of the otters taken came from unit 3D, the other 15 from 3C. County-wise, Pike gave up the most with 12, followed by Wayne with eight, Susquehanna with seven, Monroe with 6, Lackawanna with four, Luzerne and Bradford three each, Carbon two and Wyoming one.

Most of those taken were males, something else that was by design, to protect females that might have been rearing young, the report reads.

Lovallo said he was not disappointed the commission and trappers did not reach the harvest quota. The season was one of the most conservative in North America, not to exceed a take of two otters per 100 square miles. Trappers took one per 100 square miles.

That only means the populations will remain strong, he said.

In fact, going forward, Lovallo recommended commissioners adopt an eight-day otter season and eliminate the need for daily extensions. If approved by the board in April, it would run from Feb. 18-25, 2017.

“We’re very confident we’re not going to exceed our harvest goals,” Lovallo said.

One thing the season did reveal was a few cheaters. Tom Grohol, director of the commission’s bureau of wildlife protection, said three or four people who had obviously trapped otters before the season – sometimes way before the season – tried to pass the animals off as being fresh harvests.

In reality, several looked as if they “had been in the freezer quite a while,” Grohol said.

Those people are being prosecuted, he added.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.