Exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas have increased in recent years and are expected to expand in the future. Reduction in water quality from energy extraction may negatively affect water supply for agriculture and urban use within catchments as well as down river. We used non-invasive genetic techniques and capture–recapture modeling to estimate the abundance and density of North American river otters (Lontra canadensis), a sentinel species of aquatic ecosystems, in Southwestern Wyoming. While densities in two of three river reaches were similar to those reported in other freshwater systems in the western US (1.45–2.39 km per otter), otters appeared to avoid areas near energy development. We found no strong difference in habitat variables, such as overstory cover, at the site or reach level. Also, fish abundance was similar among the three river reaches. Otter activity in our study area could have been affected by elevated levels of disturbance surrounding the industrial gas fields, and by potential surface water contamination as indicated by patterns in water conductivity. Continued monitoring of surface water quality in Southwestern Wyoming with the aid of continuously recording devices and sentinel species is warranted.
|Title||Density of river otters (Lontra canadensis) in relation to energy development in the Green River Basin, Wyoming|
|Authors||B.L. Godwin, S.E. Albeke, H.L. Bergman, Annika W. Walters, M. Ben-David|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Science of the Total Environment|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Coop Res Unit Seattle|