River otters are rare to see in person, but in just ten days, South Dakota met its river otter harvest limit for 2021.
Game, Fish and Parks reported 21 otters were trapped in the eastern side of the state.
…“Everyone I talked to on the phone was pretty excited for at least the opportunity to harvest one. Guys were pretty happy when they got it and I think it went pretty well,” said Alex Solem, wildlife biologist.
“This is something that not many trappers have ever got to experience and it’s kind of a touch of South Dakota history as well,” said Nick Harrington, communications manager. “This is what our state was founded on was hunting and trapping beavers and otters and this is really that kind of taking a step back and living what our folks did long before we were even here” [Ariana Schumacher, “South Dakota Completes Second River Otter Trapping Season,” KELO-TV, 2021.11.15].
South Dakota was founded on trapping beavers and otters—well, that’s a new one. But if this slaughter is really about “taking a step back” and reliving our heritage, there are lots of things we can do to live like our folks did long before we were even here—like building a sod hut, riding horse to town, and pooping in a hole in the back yard—that don’t require the needless killing of rare furry critters.
The season also allows Game Fish and Parks officers to gather important information about the river otter population.
“Anytime that you’re dealing with a species that just came off our state threatened list and initiated a new season we don’t want to do anything that will be detrimental to them,” Solem said [Schumacher, 2021.11.15].
And killing 21 river otters isn’t anything detrimental to them? As with reliving our heritage, there are numerous ways to gather scientific data about South Dakota’s tenuous river otter population without killing them for sport.
This year’s river otter season opened on November 1; the limit was supposed to be 20 otters. Eleven of this year’s dead otters were bagged in Moody County; the rest came from Roberts (2), Grant(2), Codington (2), Deuel (2), Brookings (1), and Minnehaha (1). The 2020 season, the first since 1978, brought in 15 otters. In the five years before that, while river otters were still protected as a state threatened species, trappers “incidentally caught” 17 otters each year.