Otter family faces nuisance animal claims

March 4, 2024

A resident in Naples called the von Arx Wildlife Hospital early one morning stating he had two young river otters in a live trap and on his way to our facility. Hospital staff were immediately concerned for the welfare of the pups and asked questions to understand the situation.

Young otters trapped

The gentleman mentioned a hole had been noticed under his parent’s home several days prior, so they set the live trap.

Otter hole under the house – if you look closely, you will be able to see the otter mother

The two otter pups were found in the trap that morning. He had actually seen the frantic mother otter trying to pull the live trap with her babies into the hole. The homeowners wanted the otters removed because there was concern they were causing damage under the home.

Otters in the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

The two otter pups were quite young and obviously reliant on their mother.

Staff was intensely eager to reunite the pups with their mother. Keeping wild animal babies with their mother in the wild provides them the best chance for survival.

Staff devised a plan to take the pups back in the live trap and see if the mother could be lured from the hole under the house to a wild area just across the street. Staff placed the live trap next to the hole and waited to see if the mother would come out. Nothing happened. Staff tried playing a recording of the otter pups chirping – still nothing. 

Clip of otter pups chirping used to help lure the family back together

Hospital staff couldn’t really see in the hole since it was narrow and dark. Using an umbrella, they poked deep into the hole and heard a grunting noise and felt a tug on the umbrella – staff felt certain the mother otter was still in the hole.

Staff talked with the homeowners and explained the plan to reunite the family. Knowing the mother was still in the hole, the babies were released from the live trap to go back in the hole with mom. Ammonia soaked rags were placed near the hole entrance in an effort to make the hole less habitable. Motion sensor cameras were set at the hole entrance to record the otter family activity that night. The hope was the disturbance that had occurred, along with the unpleasant odor from the ammonia, would encourage the mother otter to move her family.

Reviewing camera video the following morning showed the mother otter with her two pups and a third pup had been in the hole with the mother the entire time. The video showed the otter family leaving the hole and not returning.

Video taken the next night showed no activity at the hole, confirming the otter family had moved on. At that point, the homeowner was able to fill in the hole without fear of trapping live animals inside. Staff felt great relief by the positive outcome that kept the otter family intact and were appreciative that the homeowners were so cooperative.

If you have a “nuisance” wildlife situation, please call the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for advice before taking action. The stress on the otter family and effort required to reunite the pups with their mother was avoidable if humane “eviction” techniques had been employed from the start. Keep in mind, a bit of understanding, empathy and compassion can provide perspective – animals are trying to raise their young and survive in a world greatly altered by humans, a world that is full of tremendous obstacles and dangers. Seeing the joy in a situation involving wild animals can be the first step in positively coexisting with wildlife.

Recent Release

A Florida softshell turtle, a marsh rabbit, four eastern cottontails, a Virginia opossum, three grey squirrels, and a sandwich tern were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website to view all the great work being accomplished at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The von Arx Wildlife Hospital receives no local, state or federal funding; our work is supported through memberships and donations. Your volunteer time, donations, and memberships are vital in helping us continue our efforts to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future. Please view our wishlist if you would like to donate specific items to the wildlife hospital.

Joanna Fitzgerald is the Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239-262-2273 or see