The Eurasian otter is endangered in Italy, only surviving in southern river basins. The spatial and social structure of a population living at the border of the current range was explored through a noninvasive genetic study along 174 km of the Sangro river. Sampling was conducted in 2011 and 2012, collecting spraints and anal jellies at 62 marking sites. Samples were successfully genotyped at 13 nuclear microsatellites and the ZFX/ZFY locus for molecular sexing, resulting in 14 distinct genotypes (4 females, 2 possible females, 8 males), from 35 marking sites. Mean captures/recaptures rate was 3.8 captures/individual, with males being recaptured more frequently than females. Spatial overlap among individuals was analyzed through a linear regression model fitted against sibship categories and sex pairing. Nine out of the fourteen genotyped individuals belonged to three full-sib clusters, while five individuals had no full-sibs in the population. Full-sibs overlapped more than half-sibs, while male–male pairs showed significantly higher spatial overlap than both male–female and female–female pairs. Estimated mean density was 0.152 otters/km and 2.4 individuals/10 × 10 km grid cell. Accordingly, the 3440 grid cells of otter occurrence in Italy could likely host about 8000 otters, suggesting the current population has become larger than the minimum viable population size.
Di Febbraro M.
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