SPACE USE AND SOCIALITY OF RIVER OTTERS (LONTRA CANADENSIS) IN MINNESOTA

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Abstract

The river otter (Lontra canadensis) has a complex social system, which varies widely across its range. We examined patterns of space use and social interactions for a native population of river otters in southeastern Minnesota. We radiomarked 28 river otters and monitored annual home ranges and core areas, static and dynamic interactions, and site fidelity. We compared these characteristics and interactions between sexes and age classes. Annual home ranges of male river otters were 3.2 times greater than those of females (P = 0.042), and annual core areas of males were 2.9 times greater than those of females (P = 0.083). The static interactions among river otters were extensive, with 69% of the individuals exhibiting core-area overlap. Overall dynamic interactions were positive (i.e., animals were closer together than expected). Males used 74% of their year 1 home range during year 2, and females used 75%. Females on average used only 39% of their core area from year 1 during year 2, whereas males used 65%. In general, conspecifics were not excluded from home ranges or core areas and signs of cooperation were evident, suggesting that river otters in southeastern Minnesota were social rather than territorial.

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