The following information was published by columnist Barb Ickes:
Many hunters and trappers say the river otter population has made enough of a comeback that a limited harvest season would be healthy for them.
John Porth, 56, said he’s been trapping all kinds of animals along the Wapsipinicon (Wapsi) River near Donahue since he was a kid. Though he agrees “it’s time” to open a trapping season on river otters, Porth said the species was even thicker in this part of the state 10 years ago.
Today, Porth said, he’d be comfortable taking one otter by trap on his 500-plus-acre farm. A decade ago, he’d have taken three or four.
But Andrews has evidence of a healthier otter population. After all, the DNR has more than 400 otter carcasses in the deep freeze, trapped accidentally or hit by cars and then turned over to the agency in recent years.
In fact, as soon as the DNR opens a trapping season on otters, it can sell those pelts to fur buyers. With the current hide value between $60 and $100, the agency could make as much as $40,000 on its current collection of otter pelts. The 200 or so bobcat hides that have been collected by the DNR over the years could fetch the agency another $20,000.
The demand for pelts is being driven by the European fashion industry, Andrews said.
As the biologist who was so instrumental in reintroducing otters to Iowa 20 years ago, Andrews said the last thing he wants to see is the species get in population trouble again. But he also acknowledges the purpose of bringing otters back in the first place: to get enough of them to trap.
In fact, lots of Iowans want to see an even larger otter and bobcat harvest than what the DNR is proposing, he said.
“We’ve got pressure to go statewide,” he said. “I don’t know how long we can hold the line.”
The final proposal taken to the Iowa Natural Resource Commission will depend in great part on what the public has to say about it. The comment period will include public meetings at a half-dozen locations around the state.
The topic: The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, is proposing a limited hunting and trapping season on bobcats and a limited trapping season on river otters in portions of the state, including Scott County.
Timeline: The DNR is in a public comment period. The harvest-season proposal could change, based on the public’s input. The decision on whether to allow trapping and hunting of otters and bobcats ultimately lies with the Iowa Natural Resource Commission. The proposal: Under its current plans, the DNR would allow Iowa trappers to take 300 river otters and would allow the trapping and hunting of 200 bobcats. It is not possible for the agency to strictly enforce the limits because some hunters and trappers could not instantly be made aware when the limits are reached. Current numbers: The DNR estimates there are 7,000 river otters and 2,500 bobcats in the state. Values: Otter and bobcat pelts currently range in value from $60 to $100. Officials say the demand for the pelts is driven by the European fashion industry.
The species: River otters and bobcats are considered “renewable resources,” according to the DNR. A river otter reintroduction program began in Iowa in 1985. Bobcats were removed from the state’s threatened species list in 2004.
Or you can write Andrews at: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, c/o Ron Andrews, 1203 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake, IA, 50428.
DNR is Accepting Comments on Proposed Otter, Bobcat Seasons
Posted: January 31, 2006
CLEAR LAKE - The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is taking comments on a proposed river otter trapping season, and a proposed bobcat hunting and trapping season. Both seasons would be limited to certain areas of the state, and have quotas, with the possibility of expanding statewide in the future.
The DNR is proposing a trapping zone for river otters for the area of the state east of U.S. highways 63 and 71 and south of U.S. Hwy. 30. The DNR is proposing a limit of 300 river otters in the zone, and a season limit of two river otters per trapper. The river otter population is growing at an estimated rate of more than 6.5 percent annually, and with the harvest limit of 300 otters per year, the season should have no impact on the overall population, and still allow for considerable growth.
Trappers will be required to report a harvest to the DNR within 24 hours, and must tag the otter within 72 hours with either a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tag or an Iowa River Otter Harvest tag.
The bobcat hunting and trapping proposal includes a zone south of I-80 and U.S. Hwy. 20, and west of U.S. Hwy. 71. The season will have a limited harvest of 200 bobcats. With a current population growth of about 7 percent annually, the quota will still allow for considerable population growth.
Bobcat harvest will have the same tagging requirements as river otters. The proposed seasons for both species is the first Saturday in November through Jan. 31, the same as other furbearer seasons.
The following information meetings are scheduled.
Feb. 7, Washington County Conservation Commission at Marr Park, Washington, at 7 p.m.
Feb. 10, Atlantic Public Library, 507 Poplar St., Atlantic, at 7 p.m.
Feb. 23, F & M Bank, backdoor, alley entrance, 101 East Main St., Manchester, at 7 p.m.
Feb. 28, Iowa Lakes Community College, 1900 Grande Avenue, Spencer at 7 p.m.
March 8, Pin Oak Nature Center, Chariton, at 7 p.m.
Both species are open to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources depredation policy.
More information on the proposals is available at www.iowadnr.com, then click on wildlife. There is an opportunity to send comments directly from the page.
For more information, contact Ron Andrews, state furbearer biologist, at 641-357-3517.