Thursday, December 27, 2012
THEY OTTER BE IN IOWA
Yesterday afternoon Beau and I took a hike down along the stream with the two dogs. We saw several small groups of deer sneaking among the snow covered cedars. When we reached the stream we saw these interesting tracks that we soon identified as river otters. Pleasant creek feeds into the Mississippi River just a few miles down stream from our place.
Through hard work, some wildlife that disappeared over 100 years ago can now be seen again. In 1900 there were no white-tailed deer or wild turkeys in Iowa. Now hunters come from across the nation to pay for the right to hunt a big buck or gobbler. Trumpeter swans, river otters, peregrine falcons and prairie chickens can be seen in increasing numbers. Following these successful reintroductions, some animals are coming back to Iowa on their own. Bobcats sightings are becoming more common. Several guys have caught them on trail cameras or seen out in the timber. Occasionally an elk, mountain lion or even a bear wanders into the state too.
Like much of the rest of North America, river otter were abundant in Iowa during European settlement, but unregulated trapping and hunting, and loss of habitat caused them to be essentially extirpated in the state. Wildlife managers began reintroduction efforts in the 1970’s that have helped make otters widespread in North America.
Iowa’s river otter reintroduction was initiated in 1985 at Red Rock Reservoir. Sixteen otters from Louisiana were released, initiating a pilot project to determine the suitability of Iowa’s aquatic resource for otters. These otters survived normally and subsequent releases were continued until 2003. In total 345 otter were released in Iowa between 1985 and 2005. This reintroduction coupled with wetland restoration and conservation contributed to the growth and widespread distribution of otters in Iowa.