Document Type



age structure, corpora lutea, Iowa, Lontra canadensis, reproduction, river otter, survival


Northern river otters (Lontra canadensis) were widespread in North America at the time of European settlement. However, river otters were extirpated from most of Iowa in the early 1900s due to habitat degradation and unregulated harvest. In 1985, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources began an effort to restore the river otter population throughout the state, including a pilot study of survival to determine if establishment was feasible. Annual survival was estimated to be 86% during the pilot study. River otters dispersed an average of about 11 km from the point of release and exhibited habitat use typical for the species. Based on the successful pilot study, 261 river otters were released in the state of Iowa from 1986-2001. More recently we examined the age structure and reproductive effort of 81 river otters (43 females and 38 males) collected in Iowa from 1999-2001 to document the characteristics of the reestablished population. We found that 41% of the otters sampled were juveniles, 38% were yearlings and 21% were adults. Fifty-five percent of all female otters were pregnant, and 80% of adult females were pregnant. We observed a mean of 2.9 corpora lutea/female and calculated that female’s ≥ 1 year old could potentially produce an average 5.7 female offspring during an average life span. Based on the widespread distribution, healthy reproductive characteristics, and high survival rates it is feasible that a limited harvest of river otter could be implemented in Iowa.

Publication Date

March-June 2003

Journal Title

Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science





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© Copyright 2002 by the Iowa Academy of Science, Inc.



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