INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Efforts to restore Indiana’s river otter population have been so successful over the last two decades that state wildlife officials say they need to cull the population.
The Natural Resources Commission will hold a hearing Thursday in Plainfield on a proposal that would create a river otter trapping season for as early as next year, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Unregulated trapping for the fur trade and a loss of habitat wiped out so many otters that they were listed as a protected species in 1921. By 1942, otters had disappeared from the state, as they had from much of the country.
The Department of Natural Resources began releasing otters back into the state in 1995. Over five years, more than 300 otters from Louisiana were released at 12 Indiana sites, and by 2005, the otter had been removed from Indiana’s endangered species list. The animals now are found in 80 percent of the state’s counties, said Linnea Petercheff, a spokeswoman with the DNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The state agency’s proposal would limit trappers to two otters a year and require them to report their kills to wildlife officials within a day. DNR officials also would set a statewide quota for otters and monitor the otter population’s size.
Petercheff said many otters have been moving from river bottoms and swamps to backyard ponds and commercial fish hatcheries.
In 2013, DNR officials received 86 complaints about otters eating fish from private fishing ponds and hatcheries, a 25 percent increase from the year before, Petercheff said.
Some activists aren’t happy with the proposal, which would open an annual otter trapping season next year that would run from Nov. 15 to March 15.
“We thought introducing them was a good idea,” said Joel Kerr, executive director of the Indiana Animal Rights Alliance. “Now it’s not, so we’re going to kill a bunch of them. That’s the way people think, and it’s wrong.”
Fred Philips, president of the Indiana State Trappers Association, said trappers support regulations that allow them to play the part of large predators that are no longer a part of Indiana’s landscape.
“Unless we want to bring back wolves and bears and let nature literally take care of itself – in which case there’s going to be high highs, and then disease comes in and then you get low lows – there’s just no other way to deal with the species effectively without trapping,” he said.