Thirteenth Annual Grant Winners 2012-2013
Status of the North American River Otter in Big Cypress National Preserve
Richard E. Dodge, Ph.D. (OSC)
Don Rosenblum, Ph.D. (FAR)
Faculty and Students
Edward O. Keith, Ph.D. (OSC)
Catherine Hamilton, B.S. (OSC)
The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is found throughout North America ranging from the coastal areas of Canada, the Atlantic States, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Aleutian Islands and throughout Alaska. In 1977, the North American river otter was listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in the Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). River otters are known to inhabit areas in Florida, especially throughout the Everglades. Big Cypress National Preserve (BCNP) is located in South Florida and is managed by the Department of Interior (DOI). Though no study has been devoted to estimating otter population size, the BCNP wildlife biologist has noted that the population has visibly been declining in her 30 years of service at the preserve. Recently, invasive species of constrictor snakes have overrun BCNM and this raises the concern that these snakes may have reduced the population of river otters in BCNP. BCNP is divided into 5 habitat types; Hammock, Pine, Cypress, Cypress-prairie, and Prairie. Of the five habitats river otters have been found in Hammock, Pine, and Cypress. The three habitats will be scouted to find suitable sampling stations. These stations will be regularly checked for a year by walking transects and scouting river banks from a canoe in search of scat, tracks, dens, or live animals. Stations will also be monitored with scent track plate stations, and baited camera traps. This investigation will provide a thesis project for an NSU Oceanographic Center graduate student, and undergraduates in the NSU Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences will participate in analyzing camera captures, fecal samples and other data.