Date: 10 Oct 2007

Total Mercury and Methylmercury Residues in River Otters (Lutra canadensis) from Wisconsin

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Abstract

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) collected trapper-caught river otter (Lutra canadensis) from 3 distinct areas of Wisconsin (north, central, and south). Otter carcasses were collected from a total of 12 counties during the trapping seasons of 2003 and 2004. Liver, kidney, muscle, brain, and fur tissue was collected for mercury (Hg) analysis. Analysis of variance identified collection zone as the significant factor for differences in tissue Hg levels, with a pattern of decreasing Hg concentrations from north to south (p < 0.0001). This trend was apparent in all tissue types analyzed. Strong relationships were observed between Hg concentrations in all tissues. Likewise, highly significant (p < 0.0001) relationships were found to exist between Hg concentrations in otter fur and Hg concentrations of internal organs (brain, muscle, kidney, and liver). Although these data suggest that Hg concentrations are related among tissues, they do not suggest uniform distribution of Hg throughout the tissues. The results suggest that Hg accumulates at higher concentrations in fur followed by liver, kidney, muscle, and brain. Analysis of a subset of samples for methylmercury (MeHg) revealed that MeHg made up a greater percentage of total Hg in brain and muscle compared to liver and kidney tissue. Although a gradient in tissue concentrations was observed from north to south, none of the tissue concentrations reached levels known to cause toxicity in either otter or mink.