River otters are doing well across Pennsylvania, according to biologists.
Photo: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
Pennsylvania’s otters – and consequently its otter season – held true to form.
In the 2016 season, 1,047 people secured a permit to trap an otter. Forty-six harvested one. In the 2017 season 995 people secured a permit and they took 36 animals.
That’s about what should have been expected, said Pennsylvania Game Commission furbearer biologist Tom Hardisky.
The timing of the harvest was predictable, too.
The otter trapping season is seven days long. Trappers took three otters on the first day, three on the second, three on the third, nine on the fourth, eight on the fifth, three on the sixth and seven on the seventh.
Haridsky attributed that to the weather.
Animals in the mustelidae family – otters, but also mink, weasels and the like — “tend to move right before a storm front approaches,” Hardisky said.
“And that’s exactly what we saw here. The storm patterns, the approaching storm fronts, had a big impact,” Hardisky said.
He called the overall season a success. Otters are doing “extremely well” in the state, and the season seems to working.
That’s why biologists recommended – and commissioners approved – a similar season for 2018. It will be held Feb. 17-24.
Change could be coming, though.
Commissioner Jim Daley of Butler County asked if otter trapping – currently restricted to just two of the state’s 23 wildlife management units, namely 3C and 3D in the northeast corner of the state – might expand geographically.
It might, Hardisky said. Units 1A and 1B in the northwest corner of the state are “definitely in the running.”
“They’re glaciated areas, with poor drainage, lots of wetlands, so it’s really good habitat for otters,” Hardisky said.
Unit 3B in the northeast might be another candidate for otter trapping, he added.
“The northwest, the northeast, they’re the stronghold of otters. So stay tuned I nthe next year or two,” he said.
Unusual otter tale
Wildlife — all species — will fight if cornered.
Otters are no exception.
That was made clear recently in West Virginia. Officials with the state’s Division of Wildlife is reminding people to treat otters as the wild animals they are after two people were bitten while on Dunkard Creek near Mason-Dixon Historical Park.
“Do not approach river otters,” said Steve Raouch, a district 1 wildlife biologist with the agency. “If an otter approaches, you should take steps to keep the otter away from you. This can be done with boat oars, fishing rod, or whatever else might be readily available. You should never try to touch a river otter or any other wild animal.”
River otters, he added, have large home ranges in and along streams and rivers. Otters are territorial and may aggressively protect their young, so people should be extra careful not to disrupt their habitat.