Otter are one of the most valuable furbearers in the country. They are in most areas where we have beaver because beaver ponds make a very good habitat for them.
Sun and heat are the #1 reason for otter to be down graded when they are sold, so don't transport your whole otter or pelted otter in the sunlight. You may put in the ice chest or damp burlap bag when transporting them.
Never use heat or hot water to thaw them! Otter need to be damp, but not soaked when selling them. Very wet otter are hard to grade.
Traps to Use
280 body traps are the best traps to use in most cases, but some people use 220 body traps or 330 body traps if they already have them. You will need a setting tool to set these strong traps. There are several different types of setting tools you can use. In some places a good leg trap with a drowning system rig is good. Don't use rusty body traps as they leave a rusty stain on the pelts that will lower the value of the pelt. Snares are also used in some sets, but snares many times will damage the pelt resulting in lower prices.
Most otter are caught in simple beaver traps. Use beaver and otter trails that go over one body of water to another body of water. You should have traps at the edge of each body of water. I usually use body grip stabilizers and use a body grip placed in the trail, half in the water as this helps keep out unwanted land animals. Always remember to remove safety hooks on your body traps, but only after you are completely finished adjusting your set! Body traps can cause serious damage to you so be careful and never touch the body trap after the safety hooks are removed. Body traps kill the target animal. I use a 7 ft. cable with a bolt snap on one end and a double feral on the other end to let the trapped animal flop over into the water. This usually hides the animal and the heat of the sun don't hit the animal. This slows the rotting process.
Leg traps can be used in the same trail setup as above, but you should use a drowning system as otter are fighters and many may escape. A drowning system consists of a piece of cable with double ferrals on each end, 2 stakes, one anchored on land and the other anchored in deep water. You will need a slide lock on your trap chain end that slides on the cable. They are designed to slide only one way so when the animal get in deep water and can't get back to land and drowns. Some trappers use a heavy weight on the water end of the drowning cable. These same sets work well on beaver dam crossovers also.
Trap Sets For Otter
Major tip---Always remove safety hooks after you are completely finished with the set.
Look for Otter trails between 2 bodies of water that are fairly close. A good 280 body trap set in the trail will catch a lot of Otter. Look for narrow spaces on small streams, narrow it down with brush to make small opening to put your body trap. You may have to use a body trap stabilizer to hold your trap at a desired height. If the water is swift, you may to bend your trigger up and place the stabilizer where water is under the trigger.
Beaver Dam Crossovers are always a place to set body traps. I sometimes set on each side of them.
Otter Toilets-- Look for them on sandy banks, but sometimes they use grassy areas near bodies of water. They have trails going back and forth to these toilets and most otter that come by will visit this area. A good set with a large leg trap at the edge of water where the trail comes up. Always use drowning system on this set. You can use a body trap at the edge of water or in the trail higher up the bank.
How to Handle and Process Otter
Do not allow your otter to ever be in direct sunlight, if possible use a damp burlap bag or ice chest to put otter in while carrying them home. Skin your otter as soon as possible. Otter are skinned cased, which means cut front legs off at the elbow joint with a hacksaw ect. Hang otter up by back legs. Split tail on inside from vent down to the tip of the tail. Ream out back legs. Split down to top of vent from each leg. Try to cut around the vent without cutting into it as it has a skunk like gland that you should avoid. Peel out tail with a good sharp knife. When you get it down to about 2/3 of the way to tip of the tail. you can stake a rod or big screw driver and run it under the back side of the tail and pull down with both hands. It will usually separate fur from the bone. With the knife, cut behind hide on leg as you pull down taking care not to cut the hide. When you have pelt skinned down about 1 inch onto the body, then you can pull down the tail and belly while lightly cutting membrane behind pelt until you get to the front legs. After you have gotten here you can take rounded stake rod or Phillips screwdriver and push behind the shoulder into the membrane taking care not to push through the pelt. Once through the membrane, take both hands and pull down to separate pelt to leg and then repeat on the other leg. Now grab pelt and pull down until you see the puff up where the ears are. Cut behind the ear puffs to try to save the ears on the pelt. Once the ears are cut behind and left on the pelt. You will have to use a sharp knife behind pelt while pulling down. When getting where eyes are, then cut behind eye membranes. Once eyeholes are cut out, then take a sharp knife again cutting down to the nose, always behind the nose resulting in the nose being left on the pelt. Never split otter down the back or belly!
Now that you have the otter skinned, roll up otter from each end, making sure that no meat shows on the roll up. Put a rubber band around pelt to hold in place, and insert it in a plastic bag and freeze. Note-on any type of pelts, several frozen together may ruin some of them as fur is the greatest insulator and several together will not freeze. Freezer burn can occur if any meat is left exposed when rolling up resulting in lower grade on fur. Never put in the refrigerator as they will ruin in 3-4 days if not frozen.
Selling your Otter Green
Take your otter out of the freezer the night before you will meet your green fur buyer. Put in an unheated area that will not be freezing over night. Never thaw in water as it will make pelt ungradeable by the fur buyer. Don't use heat of any kind as it ruins the fur and will begin the rotting process. When transporting to the fur buyer, please try to keep hide in an ice chest or at least in a damp burlap bag in the shade. Direct sunlight will heat up a pelt very quickly and start the rotting process. If you have to transport your fur in a truck bed, try some sort of board between the fur and the truck bed, as the muffler on the truck heats up the bed. Never put fur in plastic while in sun as plastic in the sun is like a microwave. You can ship otter frozen and green. Call us for details.
Selling your Otter Dry
Selling your dry fur will require that you scrape your pelt. You must have a fleshing beam, stretchers, fan, room to dry. You can get knowledge on how to do this through a good DVD or book. Also there are some pro's that will do it for you usually for $5-$7. You can usually market your stretched fur when you want to, be able to turn down bids, ship to auctions, ect.
If you need more information on handling otter, call us and ask for Jimmy or leave a message and phone number and he will be happy to return your call.
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