Mercury levels in Georgia otter, mink and freshwater fish

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Conclusion

The data reported here indicate that the presence of mercury in fish of relatively unpolluted Lower Coastal Plain streams results in accumulation of mercury by otter and mink which feed on these fish. Otter exhibit hair mercury levels which approach those at which symptoms of neurological disorders have been reported in humans suffering from mercurial poisoning (BIRKEet al. 1972). Subtle effects on behavior resulting from sublethal mercurialism could affect the reproduction and survival of certain populations of otter or mink. Possible sublethal effects of environmental mercury or other pollutants at trace levels on native animal populations deserve further study, since such information would be useful in formulating sound policies regarding discharge of pollutants under varying circumstances. Additional investigation is needed to determine the relative contributions of natural and man-caused mercury inputs to mercury levels observed in native wildlife species.