Woodland Park Zoo: River Otters as Ecological Health Biomonitors Project

Woodland Park Zoo is conducting research on river otters in the Green-Duwamish River, WA. River otters (Lontra canadensis) are apex predators that play an important role in aquatic ecosystems, and they accumulate contaminants via their diet of fish and invertebrates, potentially serving as biomonitors of watershed health. The lowest five miles of the Green-Duwamish is an EPA Superfund site, and the remainder of the watershed represents a mosaic of land-use types ranging from urban to wild. While the project is focused understanding contaminant loads, diet and population dynamics using scat analyses, we also complemented these approaches with deployments of camera traps at numerous sites to explore group size, latrine visitation patterns, pup emergence times, and other basic behavioral parameters.

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