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The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) is proposing to remove river otter trapping restrictions on the main stems of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, Snake River, and Main Salmon River in the Clearwater Region

Removing restrictions may mean that if you like to raft Hells Canyon, the Lower Salmon River, or the Middle Fork Clearwater, your chances of encountering a river otter might decrease. 

Encountering a river otter is a highlight of any river trip. We believe that river otters are special and that IDFG would be better off prioritizing these as a watchable wildlife species than optimizing them for fur trapping. 

IDFG regulations currently allow for 160 otters to be trapped statewide every year. The Clearwater region’s harvest quota for river otters is set at twenty, and trappers have harvested six. IDFG proposes removing trapping restrictions even though the limit hasn’t been reached. 

Fish and Game has a legal responsibility to use science — not special interest pressure — to manage wildlife for ALL Idahoans. It is unclear if Fish and Game has done the necessary in-depth studies to support this proposal. With slower breeding furbearers, trapping can negatively impact populations. 

Furbearer populations can go up and down in response to trapping pressure and the price of fur on the international market. Idaho Fish and Game suspended river otter trapping in 1972 due to fluctuating otter harvests. Trapping pressure depends on the price of furs. When fur prices go up, otter numbers may go down. This fluctuation is poor ecosystem management for a watchable wildlife species. Fish and Game seems to be telling Idahoans who enjoy seeing river otters that their experiences are not as valuable when fur prices go up. 

In 1988, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission surveyed the public, and 94% of respondents opposed a river otter season. Because of this, the Fish and Game Commission did not open a season at that time. 

Following a request by the Idaho Trappers Association, Fish and Game reauthorized river otter trapping for the 2000 – 2001 trapping season and has expanded it ever since. 

While Idaho’s river otters are not likely to be extirpated from these rivers, every river otter trapped means one less river otter you are likely to see. 

Idaho Fish and Game states that river otters provide “recreational opportunities, viewing enjoyment and an economic return from fur pelts.” River recreation activities such as river running and fishing have increased dramatically in the two decades since Fish and Game reauthorized trapping for river otters. The vast majority of Idahoans would rather see river otters playing in rapids than have those animals drown in a trap just so that someone can make a fashion statement. 

IDFG’s mission is to “protect, preserve, perpetuate and manage Idaho’s wildlife resources.” Instead of expanding trapping for river otters, Fish and Game should reject this proposal. Idaho’s wildlife belongs to all Idahoans. River runners, anglers, and kids should be able to enjoy watching otters based on natural river otter population cycles — not on fur prices in the international market. 

Please voice your opposition to the removal of trapping restrictions on the main stems of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, Snake River, Payette River, and Main Salmon River in the Clearwater region by December 10, 2021.

There are three IDFG regions proposing to remove river otter trapping restrictions. You can send your comments to the area you care most about.

When you submit your comments, please describe a favorite river otter encounter you have had on rivers in the Clearwater region

When you submit your comments, please describe a favorite river otter encounter you have had on rivers in the Southwest region

When you submit your comments, please describe a favorite river otter encounter you have had on rivers in the Salmon region