We know, otters are super cute and are some of the most entertaining mammals to watch frolic about, but in Illinois they’re creating a bit of a problem.
About 20 years ago, the state’s river otters were in big trouble. They were on Illinois’ endangered list and their numbers dwindled to about 100. Thanks to conservation efforts, the otters are out of the woods. Between 1994 and 1997, 346 otters trapped in Louisiana were released in Illinois to help bolster the population. In 1999, the otters were moved off the state’s endangered list and onto the threatened list. In 2004, they were delisted completely. Today, there are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 river otters living in Illinois.
The problem is, the little critters are getting cocky. They’re invading private ponds and fish farms where too many easy meals await. So for the first time in 83 years, Illinois opened a trapping season on the otters. It started November 5 and runs through March 31, and trappers are only allowed to trap five otters each all season. It’s $15.50 to trap otters – $10.50 for the state trapping license and an extra $5 for a special otter license.
You can feel sad for the trapped otters, but the bigger picture is much more rosy. According to Department of Natural Resources biologist Bob Bluett, simply having enough otters to have to institute a trapping season is “a success story many times over.”