Spatial and Temporal Trends in River Otter Harvest in Louisiana

Louisiana is the leading state in number of river otters (Lontra canadensis) used in reintroduction programs in other states and in the production of pelts. However, habitat loss and degradation have prompted concern about the status of otter populations. We analyzed harvesting records maintained by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries during 1983-2001 to identify spatial and temporal trends in otter harvesting activity. To summarize temporal trends, we estimated mean number of otters harvested and trappers, correlation coefficients for number otters trapped and number of trappers, and harvest rate (otters/trapper) for each trapping season. We used the geostatistics mean center, weighted by the number of otters harvested in each parish, to identify spatial trends in otter harvest distribution. Our results suggest that in Louisiana river otter harvest has changed over the last 20 years in mean number of otters harvested per year, which is most likely related to declines in number of trappers during the period analyzed. We also documented changes in otter harvest distribution with proportionally more otters being harvested in upland habitat in recent years. We offer some possible explanations for these changes and suggest directions for future otter research in Louisiana.

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