ESTIMATING NORTH AMERICAN RIVER OTTER (LONTRA CANADENSIS) POPLULATION SIZE USING DNA FROM SCAT
January 2006 - December 2010
- Nebraska Game and Parks
River otters (Lontra canadensis) are a state threatened species in Nebraska. Their rare and elusive nature makes them particularly difficult to study. Non-invasive genetic sampling is a new technique in which the DNA of the target species is collected from scat or hair samples and used to answer questions regarding the population. In September of 2009 a study began with the aim of using DNA from river otter scat to estimate the population size of the Big Bend Reach of the central Platte River. Scat samples were collected once in September on a 13 miles stretch of river and then again in October. DNA extraction was completed in June of 2010 and further analysis of the DNA is expected to be completed this fall. A population estimate for otters on the Big Bend Reach of the Platte River will be important in an overall state management plan. The information gained from this study will also be useful in performing a larger, statewide study to determine otter populations in other areas throughout Nebraska.