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River Otter Trapping Legal Again After 83-Year Ban

By Chris Bentley in News on Sep 7, 2012 7:40PM

2012_9_7_riverotter.jpg Illinois furbearer enthusiasts take note: For the first time since 1929, you can legally dust off those otter traps. Legislation this week authorized the state’s first trapping season for river otters in 83 years.

Lontra canadensis was abundant in the region before European settlement. Habitat loss and unchecked harvesting cut the mustelids down to vanishingly small numbers by the 20th century, but reintroduction in 1994 produced a dramatic recovery. Once classified “state endangered,” with fewer than 100 estimated statewide, Illinois' river otters could number 30,000 within two years.

Their rebound has been so successful otters have even returned to the Chicago area — an idea one Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist said, “would have been unheard of just a few years ago.” (Perhaps sic ’em on our invasive carp?)

The DNR is authorized to establish a trapping season between Nov. 1 and March 31 during any year; this year it will begin Nov. 5 in areas north of I-72, and Nov. 10 to the south. Otters are born between January and May and can breed when they’re just one year old.

River otters can grow to more than four feet in length, including the tail. That yields a pelt worth up to $100. They’re also cute enough to merit their own Facebook group. But if you can resist anthropomorphizing the semi-aquatic weasels, trapping season awaits.