Kansas State University
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Factors Affecting the Distribution and Detectability of River Otters in Eastern Kansas

Dr. Craig Paukert
Mackenzie Shardlow, M.S. student

Project Supervisor
Dr. Craig Paukert

Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Eastern Kansas
December 2009
Estimate occupancy and detection probabilities of river otters in the eastern third of Kansas.

Compare fur-harvester questionnaires regarding river otter occurrence with estimates achieved through sign surveys.

Examine the occurrence of river otters and beaver to determine the feasibility of multi-species occupancy modeling and to evaluate interspecies relationships.
Progress and Results
Fifty to 100 sites are being surveyed from randomly selected watersheds. Each site consists of a 3600-meter survey of a stream, river, or reservoir shoreline documenting otter and beaver sign as well as vegetation and shore characteristics. These relatively long survey segments will allow for spatial replication to account for false-absences.

A questionnaire is being developed to mail to fur harvesters in order to obtain information on specific locations of river otter sightings during the past three years. The data from these questionnaires will be compared to both the sign surveys and otter location data collected in the 2004-2005 Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Furbearer Harvest Survey to determine if detectable changes in otter distribution occurred.

A final report will be prepared for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to better understand and manage the state’s river otter population.


Jeffress, M., R., C. P. Paukert, J. B. Whittier, B. K. Sandercock, and P. S. Gipson. 2011. Scale-dependent factors affecting North American river otter distribution in the Midwest. American Midland Naturalist 166:177-193.

Jeffress, M.R., C.P. Paukert, B. K. Sandercock, and P. Gipson. 2011. Factors affecting the detectability of river otters during sign surveys. Journal of Wildlife Management 75:144-150.

Blecha, K.A., P.S. Gipson, and M. Peek. 2007. Occupancy Modeling of River Otter (Lontra canadensis) in Eastern Kansas. Midwest Furbearer Workshop. Lincoln, Nebraska. 11 Sept 2007.

Shardlow, M., P. S. Gipson, K. A. Blecha, and M. Peek. 2008. River otter distribution and population status in eastern Kansas. Information Brochure, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.