Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute


Lei Lani Stelle, Ph.D.
Institute of Technology, Rochester

The Elusive River Otter:

using traditional and modern techniques
to study a reintroduced population

Wednesday – April 4, 2007
Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.

 Once widely distributed throughout the continent, the North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) has been extirpated from much of its range due to habitat loss, pollution, and over-trapping. The New York River Otter Project reintroduced 279 otters to facilitate their natural recolonization, but little is known regarding the success of this effort. River otters are notoriously elusive so we employ traditional survey techniques in combination with modern technologies such as DNA analysis, GIS, and remote cameras to investigate their diet, habitat preference, population genetics, and behavior. In addition, a comparative study of a population of otters feeding in coastal waters in British Columbia with the freshwater-inhabiting NY population is providing insight into the effects of habitat on the behavioral and physiological ecology of river otters. Results from this study should be useful in designing future reintroduction projects.

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