Home News Ohio’s River Otter Revival: A Conservation Triumph From Ohio Extinction to Recovery

Ohio’s River Otter Revival: A Conservation Triumph From Ohio Extinction to Recovery


The triumphant return of river otters to Ohio marks a remarkable conservation success story. After being absent from the state for much of the past century, efforts led by dedicated wildlife enthusiasts have led to the flourishing presence of these charismatic creatures once again.

Dennis Solon, the manager of the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area, played a pivotal role in the reintroduction of river otters to Ohio in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Covering over 5,500 acres in Wayne and Holmes counties, the wildlife area was selected as the site for the initial otter reintroductions due to the pristine water quality of Killbuck Creek. Studies had indicated that poor water quality could adversely affect otter reproduction, making the area an ideal habitat for their resurgence, as noted by Solon.

The first attempt to bring otters from Arkansas ended tragically, with most of the animals perishing due to the stress of trapping and transportation. However, a breakthrough came when Division of Wildlife officials discovered a specialist in Louisiana who trained trappers in the safe and humane handling of otters. This meticulous approach ensured the well-being of both the otters and the humans involved in their transportation. After six weeks of care and monitoring, the otters were flown to Ohio.

Upon arrival, the otters underwent further care, including the implantation of transmitters by Dr. Lawrence Smith of Shreve, who received recognition from the Division of Wildlife for his invaluable contributions. These transmitters, akin to a C battery in size, provided crucial data indicating the success of the otters’ reintroduction. Subsequent releases in the Grand River, Stillwater Creek, and the Little Muskingum River further bolstered the otter population in Ohio.

Records from the Division of Wildlife reveal that between 1986 and 1993, a total of 123 otters were released across four watersheds. Today, otters have been observed in all but four of Ohio’s 88 counties. The remarkable recovery of the otter population led to their removal from the endangered species list in 2002, paving the way for the initiation of trapping seasons in 2005.

Recent bridge surveys conducted at 421 sites across Ohio underscore the widespread presence of otters, with signs of their activity detected in nearly 25 percent of the locations surveyed. This resurgence serves as a testament to the effectiveness of concerted conservation efforts and highlights the resilience of Ohio’s natural ecosystems.