Natural Resources, School of
Date of this Version
Bieber, N. R., S. P. Wilson, and C. R. Allen. (2018). River otter distribution in Nebraska. Wildlife Society Bulletin 42(1): 136-143.
The river otter (Lontra canadensis) was extirpated from Nebraska, USA, in the early 1900s and reintroduced starting in 1986. Information is needed regarding the distribution of river otters in Nebraska before decisions can be made regarding its conservation status. Understanding distribution of a species is critically important for effective management. We investigated river otter distribution in Nebraska with occupancy modeling and maximum entropy (Maxent) modeling using 190 otter sign observations on Nebraska’s navigable rivers and 380 historical otter records from November 1977 to April 2014. Both methods identified the Platte River, Elkhorn River, central and eastern Niobrara River, and southern Loup River system as core areas within the distribution of otters in Nebraska. The Maxent model provided more liberal estimates of site occupancy and identified some smaller rivers as being within the distribution of otters in Nebraska, which were not identified using occupancy modeling. We recommend that multiple data sets and analysis methods be used to estimate species distribution because this allows for the broadest geographical coverage and decreases the likelihood of overlooking areas with fewer animal records. If further reintroduction efforts or translocation efforts are to take place in the future, we recommend focusing on areas with high modeled occupancy but few historical and survey records.
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