Mercury poisoning in a free-living northern river otter (Lontra canadensis)

Jonathan M. Sleeman, Daniel A. Cristol, Ariel E. White, David C. Evers, R. W. Gerhold, Michael K Keel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


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 mammal: kidney, 353 μg/ liver, 221 μg/g; muscle, 121 μg/g; brain (three replicates from cerebellum), 142, 151, 151. μg/g (all dry weights); and fur, 183 μg/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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1039
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Wildlife Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Lontra canadensis
  • Mercury poisoning
  • Northern river otter
  • Virginia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Mercury poisoning in a free-living northern river otter (Lontra canadensis)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this