Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Otter Limits State's Trapping Season Draws Fire

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Otter Limits State's Trapping Season Draws Fire

Article excerpt

The Department of Conservation four years ago marked the end of a decade-long river otter restoration project by releasing the last 20 otters into a central Missouri stream with much fanfare.

More than 400 people cheered as the liberated otters put on a show, slipping on and splashing through the ice-covered creek. News crews filmed the event.

The department estimates the project's 825 otters - trapped in Louisiana and traded to Missouri for wild turkeys - have grown into 3,000 or so. Enough, it says, for a two-month, no-limit trapping season set to open Nov. 20. The department says it expected, and is getting, criticism for that decision. Allen Rutberg, a biologist for the Humane Society of the United States, said the Missouri Conservation Department enjoys a national reputation for its progressive programs. But Rutberg flew in from Washington Monday to denounce the otter-trapping season at a department meeting in Jefferson City. The regulations committee took no action on changing the season at the meeting. About half the states have otter trapping seasons. "The department has sold out the public for the twisted pleasure of a few hundred trappers," Rutberg said after his appearance. "We've got a fragile population of otters here," he added. "There is no ethical, biological or economic justification for opening a season." Frank Dexheimer is no biologist, but he also questions the state's opening a season on otters. He is a retired surgeon in Columbia, Mo., and a nature lover who witnessed the final otter release in 1992. "I don't see how killing them off improves their chances of getting a good foothold in Missouri," Dexheimer said. Otters were common in the state when the settlers arrived, although never as abundant as beavers. They largely disappeared as a casualty of the beaver-trapping industry. …

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