West Virginia seeks public input for statewide river otter project

West Virginia seeks public input for statewide river otter project
A river otter peers out from behind a tree in West Virginia (Photo courtesy W.Va. Department of Commerce)

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The W.Va. Division of Natural Resources has launched a citizen science project to identify the distribution of river otters across West Virginia and is asking members of the public to report sightings through an online survey.


The survey can be completed online or by using the Survey123 mobile application. To learn more about participating in the survey, visit and scroll down to River Otters.

As part of the survey, participants will be asked to report river otter sightings and provide details about the otter’s location, the number of otters observed, and what the otter was doing. Submitting a photo of the otter is encouraged.

The survey, which is similar to the box turtle and rattlesnake citizen science surveys the division has conducted, will provide updated information about the bodies of water river otters currently occupy. Data collected during the survey will help division biologists better manage river otter populations across West Virginia.


River otters, which were once extirpated in West Virginia, were reintroduced to the state by the division in the 1980s. Since then, river otter populations have stabilized and are increasing in certain areas.

To learn more about other citizen science projects and surveys, visit .

Gooney Otter: Biologist suggests an origin for the strange name of this West Virginia stream

An old Virginian Railroad trestle spans Gooney Otter Hollow at Covel, West Virginia. (Photo: David Sibray)

From high among the peaks of Great Flat Top Mountain in southern West Virginia, there descends a stream that bears a unique name, Gooney Otter Creek. But what is a "gooney otter?" The strange placename appears nowhere else in the world, but a renowned wildlife biologist may have the answer.

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