Illinois’s first otter trapping season in 84 years has been deemed a success, as about 2,000 otters were captured, beating estimates. Bob Bluett, wildlife biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, had expected a haul of between 1,200 and 1,800 otters. He says trappers harvested about 13 percent of the state’s otter population.
“Once you get into the 15 to 20 percent range, then populations go down somewhat,” Bluett said. “So I think our 13 percent was a good middle-of-the-road figure.”
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The 2012-13 season was the first time trappers could legally catch river otters since 1929. Their numbers had dwindled to fewer than 100 by 1990, but a successful reintroduction effort during the 1990s brought Illinois’s otter population to an estimated 11,000 by 2009.
“We started experiencing some problems with river otters getting into people’s ponds and killing fish,” Bluett said. “The trapping season was a way to try and manage some of those problems and also take advantage of this abundant resource that we had.”
The next trapping season begins in November, and will last for about five months.