Otter History in Western New York
Like many areas in North America, the North American river otter was once found throughout New York State. However, over hunting for otter furs in the 18th 19th centuries and increased water pollution eradicated otters from much of New York State. Eventually, river otters were only left in the remote regions of the Adirondack Mountains in Northern New York. By 1936, river otter numbers had become so low that trapping was ceased for 9 years. Though populations increased in some areas during this nine year period, otters were considered to be extirpated from the much of Western New York, including Monroe and surrounding counties (NYSDEC).
The New York State River Otter Project (NYROP)
Since it seemed the river otter would not make a comeback to Western New York on its own, the New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC), the Seneca Park Zoo and several other organizations formed, the New York State River Otter Project or NYROP to return the otters. Otters were trapped in the Adirondacks and then released in Western New York. Between 1995 and 2000 279 otters were released. Research at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the NYSDEC has proven that at least some of these otters have remained in the area. Sightings of young otters suggest the released otters have established viable populations. (NYSDEC). Check out the Research at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) to learn about the work being done to monitor the current river otter populations in Western New York.
Research is key to understanding and protecting otter species in the wild. Click on the links below to find out about research on otters in Western New York and internationally.