Mercury Poisoning in a Free-Living Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis)

Daniel A. Cristol, William & Mary
Ariel E. White, William & Mary
David C. Evers
R. W. Gerhold
Michael K. Keel


A moribund 5-year-old female northern river otter (Lontra canadensis) was found on the bank of a river known to be extensively contaminated with mercury It exhibited severe ataxia and scleral injection, made no attempt to flee, and died shortly thereafter of drowning Tissue mercury levels were among the highest ever reported for a free-living terrestrial in kidney, 353 mu g/g, liver, 221 mu g/g, muscle, 121 mu g/g, brain (three replicates from cerebellum), 142, 151, 151 mu g/g (all dry weights), and fur, 183 mu g/g (fresh weight) Histopathologic findings including severe, diffuse, chronic glomerulosclerosis and moderate interstitial fibrosis were the presumptive cause of clinical signs and death This is one of a few reports to document the death of a free-living mammal from presumed mercury, poisoning