River Otter

The 2023 river otter season harvest limit of 20 was reached on November 18, at 11 a.m. central time, and the season is now closed. River otters captured in existing traps in the next 24 hours are legal catches. It is illegal to harvest river otters by hunting now that the harvest limit has been reached.   

Furbearer license holders now have until November 19, 11 a.m. central time (24 hours since the season closed) to report any trapped river otters to GFP by calling 605.353.7319. After this time, any harvested river otter is considered incidental take and will be surrendered to GFP.

Any trapped otter outside of the designated season is considered incidental take and must be turned in to GFP. 

The river otter is a mostly aquatic furbearer thought to have occupied one of the largest geographic areas among North America’s mammals at time of European Settlement.  However, the river otter suffered population declines resulting in the loss of nearly 75% of their range by 1988.  Reintroduction efforts throughout North America have led to a successful rebound of this once widely distributed mammal.  River otters occur in several streams, rivers and marshes within eastern South Dakota.  

River otters are secretive in their behavior but are active year-round during the evening and from the hours of dawn to midmorning.  They range in size from 34 to 54 inches in length and their weights can range from 7.4 to 34 lbs.  They are characterized by a cylindrical-shaped body with short legs; a rudder-like tail; short, dense fur; and feet that are completely webbed and adapted for an aquatic lifestyle.

In 2020, the river otter was taken off South Dakota’s state threatened species list.  This delisting has allowed for a conservative trapping/hunting season; the first in modern times.  This trapping/hunting season runs from November 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023 or until the conservative harvest limit of 20 river otters has been reached (whichever comes first).

To report a harvest during the river otter season call 605.353.7319.

Once this harvest is reported, the trapper/hunter will be directed to call a GFP Wildlife office to set up a time to check in the river otter carcass and receive their CITES tag for the detached river otter pelt.

For an update on the current river otter harvest please view the following link:

Current River Otter Harvest Count-Harvest Limit Reached

Or call the River Otter Harvest Hotline at 605.353.7185.

Reporting a River Otter