Methods for Evaluating Abundance and Distribution of River Otters in Georgia

Data for assessing trends in river otter (Lutra canadensis) distribution and abundance are difficult to collect because monitoring techniques are currently unavailable, prohibitively expensive, or are applicable only to small areas. Scent-station and field-sign techniques for gathering such information were evaluated in 52 counties and 6 physiographic regions of Georgia from 1983 through 1986. Indices derived from scent-station and field-sign surveys were correlated (P < 0.01). Scent-station surveys were discontinued in 1985 and 1986, and field-sign surveys were used exclusively in all but I region because field-sign surveys were less costly. Field-sign surveys are a rapid, economical means of determining river otter distribution, but high variability in field-sign or scent-station indices precludes their use as detectors of annual fluctuations in otter abundance.

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