New York River Otter Project
2002 SAVMA Symposium
Jeff Wyatt DVM, MPH, ACLAM dipl
Director of Animal Health & Conservation, Seneca Park Zoo, Rochester, NY

The New York River Otter Project (ROP) reintroduced 279 river otters (Lutra canadensis) into Central and Western New York. The ROP is a coalition of industries (Rochester Gas & Electric Company), nature and educational institutions (Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Seneca Park Zoo), conservation and sportsmen’s organizations (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Trappers Association) and countless volunteers. The project officially began when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Department of Environmental Conservation and River Otter Project at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester on July 7, 1995.

Two hundred and seventy nine river otters were reintroduced from the Adirondack region of New York State to fifteen Central and Western New York release sites between 1995 and 2000. Before release, each otter underwent veterinary processing at either Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine or the Seneca Park Zoo Animal Health Center. The Cornell University medical protocol included physical examinations, blood collection for diagnostics, Clostridial antitoxin administration, parasite evaluation and treatments well as subcutaneous implantation of a microchip. Selected otters received transmitters surgically placed into the peritoneal cavity for radiotelemetry tracking.

The approximate $300,000 cost of the project was offset by contributions from corporations, individuals, grants and merchandise sales. The River Otter Project engaged thousands of school children conducting fundraisers as well as many who attended otter releases to witness the beauty of the river otter and success of a regional conservation initiative.

In this presentation I review the history of the River Otter Project, the veterinary care protocols and subsequent radiotelemetry tracking. For more information go to

Speaker Information
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Jeff Wyatt, DVM, MPH, ACLAM dipl
Director of Animal Health & Conservation, Seneca Park Zoo, Rochester, NY

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