FRANKFORT - Regulation changes for the 2012-13 river otter season in Kentucky include the establishment of two harvest zones and a regional increase in the season bag limit.
The hunting and trapping seasons, which run concurrently, open at noon on Nov. 12, and continue through Feb. 28, 2013.
“The season bag limit is now 10 river otters per person, but no more than six may be taken in River Otter Zone 2,” said Laura Patton, furbearer biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Otter populations continue to grow throughout the state with greater abundance in western and northern Kentucky.”
Otter predation of fish, especially in farm ponds, was also a factor in increasing the bag limit in areas with the highest otter populations. Landowners can lessen otter problems by allowing trappers access to their property during trapping season. Additionally, landowners can call Kentucky Fish and Wildlife at 1-800-858-1549 for technical guidance and advice on methods to control otters in their ponds and lakes.
Hunters and trappers may take their entire season limit of 10 otters in River Otter Zone 1. The 58 counties in River Otter Zone 1 are: Anderson, Ballard, Bath, Boone, Bourbon, Bracken, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Caldwell, Calloway, Campbell, Carlisle, Carroll, Christian, Crittenden, Daviess, Fayette, Fleming, Franklin, Fulton, Gallatin, Grant, Graves, Grayson, Hancock, Hardin, Harrison, Henderson, Henry, Hickman, Hopkins, Jefferson, Kenton, Larue, Livingston, Lyon, Marshall, Mason, McCracken, McLean, Meade, Muhlenberg, Nelson, Nicholas, Ohio, Oldham, Owen, Pendleton, Robertson, Rowan, Scott, Shelby, Spencer, Trigg, Trimble, Union, Webster and Woodford.
River Otter Zone 2 includes the remaining 62 counties in west central, south central and eastern Kentucky. Hunters and trappers may take no more than six otters of their season limit of 10 in River Otter Zone 2.
Otters must be telechecked, their harvest reported by telephone or online at fw.ky.gov, on the day they were taken.
Ralph Riley, a fur buyer in Henderson, said otter fur is in demand. The price it brings is dependent on the grade, size and color of the fur. “Otter can sell at auction for as much as $140,” said Riley. “Kentucky has a good population of otters, and they’re not just on the big rivers. You can catch one just about anywhere.”
River otters are usually trapped along stream banks and lake shores, where they enter the water. “Otters are creatures of habit and their sign is easy to find,” said Riley.
Hunters or trappers who intend to sell the raw fur of an otter must go online to fw.ky.gov or call 1-800-858-1549 and provide the telecheck confirmation number to request a CITES tag. This tag must remain attached to the otter pelt until it is processed.
In 1977, the river otter was listed in The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to ensure that international trade is not detrimental to the survival of wild populations. The free CITES tags that Kentucky Fish and Wildlife mails to hunters come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency responsible for monitoring international trade of otter fur.
Native to Kentucky, the river otter (Lontra canadensis) had disappeared from most of the state by the mid 1900s.
“From 1991-94, 355 otters were released in Kentucky,” said Patton. “At that time we were one of 21 states that had river otter restoration programs.”
Wild-trapped otters from Louisiana were released at 14 sites in central and eastern Kentucky, in the Barren, Kentucky, Licking, Salt, Big Sandy, Nolin and Green River basins.
The state’s otter population grew for 12 years after restoration before any harvests were allowed. A statewide trapping season opened in 2006, after biologists determined that sustainable numbers of otters were present in every major watershed in the state.
“This year we are collecting tooth samples from otters, as part of the continued monitoring of the species,” said Patton. “Hunters and trappers who take otters are asked to call (800) 858-1549, for details on how to properly submit a sample.”
For more information about river otter season and zones, consult the 2012-2013 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide available wherever hunting licenses are sold and also at the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website, fw.ky.gov.