Around 20 years ago, wild river otters were almost nonexistent in Iowa. But now, the aqautic predator can be found in nearly every river and lake. Ron Andrews, with the Department of Natural Resources, admits it’s raised some concern among fishing enthusiasts.
Andrews says river otters will feed on just about any fish species, including those desired by anglers. However, it’s not clear if river otters are having a negative impact on specific fisheries. "I think it’s too soon to tell for sure if they’ve had a major negative impact," Andrews says, "we haven’t found the data that support that yet." He says the river otters have been blamed for steep reduction in the small mouth bass population in southern Missouri.
The Iowa DNR began a river otter restoration effort in 1985, releasing 350 of the animals. A river otter trapping season in Iowa was held for the first time in more than a century last fall. Trappers met the harvest limit of 400 animals in just 10 days. Andrews says the quota for this season, scheduled for November, will remain at 400.