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There were only about 100 wild river otters left in Illinois a few decades ago. Now there are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000, thanks to the release of 346 otters captured via foothold traps in Louisiana from 1994 to 1997. Considered an endangered species in 1989, the otters were upgraded to state threatened in 1999 and, in 2004, they were delisted. This year, for the first time since 1929, otters can be trapped and killed.