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Tuesday, January 30 • 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Student Research-in-Progress Poster Display. Diet of a Reintroduced River Otter Population in the Upper Rio Grande, New Mexico

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AUTHOR: Gabriela Wolf-Gonzalez, University of Kentucky

ABSTRACT: When apex predators have been extirpated from ecosystems for many years, cascading effects usually occur. However, the reintroduction of long-missing predators has been shown to shift these altered ecosystems back toward their original status. North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) were historically abundant throughout North America, but due to over exploitation they were extirpated from most of their historic range. From 2008-2010, New Mexico initiated an otter recovery program; reintroducing river otters in the upper Rio Grande River after a 60-year absence. Efforts were discontinued after concerns arose about possible otter depredation of threatened and vulnerable native fish species. We propose a non-invasive latrine survey to understand dietary preference as well as importance to determine if otters are feeding on any species of concern within the system. Field work is expected to begin January 2018, with surveys occurring in the northern stretches of the Rio Grande and Rio Chama within 5 counties: Rio Arriba, Taos, Mora, Santa Fe and Sandoval County. Scat will be collected from communal latrines and examined. Any recovered animal remains, scales, bones, or teeth will be identified to species. A local database of potential prey species will be compiled from state agencies such as the New Mexico Game and Fish, for comparison. We will use frequency of occurrence within scat to determine diet preference and importance for this reintroduced river otter population with hopes of determining if any conflicts exist between the reintroduced river otter and local fisheries management goals.

Tuesday January 30, 2018 6:00pm - 9:00pm CST
Ballroom C & Foyer