What started with a 23-second video clip on a social media site has turned into a question, are river otters making a comeback in Northeast Ohio?
The answer? Not all of Northeast Ohio but certainly in Trumbull County, where it can no longer be called a comeback because otters there have been abundant for a while.
The video clip was shot on March 1 by Julia McComb Shutt along Chocolate Run Creek as a tributary of the Mahoning River near Leavittsburg. It shows a river otter going from water to ice, grabbing a large fish with its powerful jaws and taking it back into the water.
“You don’t usually see them, they’re a nocturnal animal, but we have more around than people realize,” said Trumbull County Wildlife Officer Marty Cisine.
We showed him a hole in the river bank, which he said could be home to a river otter. It’s places like these where they live.
“Otters are seldom a nuisance. Sometimes they can get into somebody’s pond, and they primarily eat fish. So they can eat quite a few fish from someone’s pond,” Cisine said.
In December of 1986, otters were reintroduced along the Grand River in northern Trumbull County.
Over-trapping in the early 1900s made the otter extinct in Northeast Ohio.
“So they capture otters in different states, relocate them back here in Ohio and the population has increased ever since,” Cisine said.
By 1990, four years after the first release, there were an estimated 100 otters in Trumbull County. Today…
“I believe there was an estimate a few years back of over 8,000 but I’m not sure of the number,” Cisine said.
Fourteen years ago, with the otter population at a more than stable number, a trapping season was permitted. It runs from late December to late February, and for otter trappers, the place to be is in and around Trumbull County.
“Most of the otter population, or the greatest otter population, including the greatest amounts of otters harvested by trappers, is in Portage, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties,” Cisine said.
The number of otters harvested during the 2018-2019 trapping season gives an idea of where all the otters are.
This year, the most were trapped in Portage County, at 31. Trumbull County was second with 29 otters. Then came Ashtabula County with 22 otters, three in Columbiana County and one in Mahoning County.