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Rutter photograph

Andrew Rutter

Advisors: Dr. Clayton Nielsen and Dr. Eric Schauber

River Otter Habitat Use, Movement, and Survival
in Southern Illinois

North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) populations in southern Illinois have risen to harvestable levels in recent years since their reintroduction in the mid-1990s. They serve an important role as top carnivores in aquatic ecosystems, sensitive bio-indicators, and are an important resource for Illinois trappers. Understanding how otters utilize different habitats plays a key role when implementing effective management of the species. My research will involve implanting river otters with intraperitoneal radio-transmitters and conducting radiotelemetry to quantify: (1) how much time otters spend in various aquatic and terrestrial habitat types throughout the year; (2) how otters move throughout the landscape, and the size and overlap of their respective home ranges; and (3) survival of adult vs. juvenile age-classes at different times of the year and during the trapping season. My research will have direct implications to the future management of river otter populations in Illinois and throughout the Midwest.