Presentation Explores Importance of River Otters

River otters in winter. Photo by Diana-Hargraves

PEEC News:

Populations of otters throughout the world face increasing challenges as the quality and quantity of water resources decline. As conflicts over water use intensify, many otter species are being down-listed to Vulnerable or Endangered. With concerted conservation efforts, however, otter abundance is increasing in certain places, including New Mexico.

Presenter Melissa Savage will explain why otters are important to our state in a free talk at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC), 3540 Orange St. in Los Alamos. No advance registration is required to attend. Savage also will provide information to help the audience learn how to observe otters in the Rio Grande.

In New Mexico, where otters were extirpated by 1953, recent restoration of river otters to the Upper Rio Grande has brought back this keystone species to our own rivers. Savage will discuss this positive experiment, why the river otter is essential to the health of river ecosystems in our state, as well as some optimistic trends for giant otters in the Amazon Basin and otters in the Himalaya region.

Savage is a field-geographer, an emerita professor from the Department of Geography at UCLA, and adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. She was a collaborator in the effort that restored river otters to the Upper Rio Grande from 2008-2010.

In the past several years she has worked with researchers on conserving otters internationally. She currently directs the Four Corners Institute in Santa Fe, a nonprofit organization that assists communities in the restoration of their natural environments.

For more information about this and other programs offered by PEEC, visit, email or call 662-0460.