CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — A KXAN viewer captured a trio of otters swimming along the San Marcos River this past weekend.
River otters traditionally live near bodies of water like lakes, large rivers and streams. They can be found in the Texas Gulf Coast region, living in marshes, bayous and inlets, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
While river otters are more traditionally found within the eastern portion of Texas, TPWD officials said they likely were once more readily found throughout the Panhandle, north central and southern regions of the state.
KXAN spoke on Monday with Jessica Alderson, TPWD’s urban biologist. She said there’s been an increased trend of “citizen scientists,” or citizens who are tracking sightings of otters and other wildlife along rivers and across various landscapes.
Video below courtesy of Maribel Galindo
That’s not to say the river otter’s population has necessarily increased. TPWD officials said the agency doesn’t currently do significant research or monitoring on river otters statewide, so it’s unknown whether these citizen sightings are reflective of a rebound in population numbers.
“I wouldn’t say that seeing a river otter would be super rare, but [it’s] uncommon,” she said.
River otters used to be more commonly found in the Central Texas area, but impacts from the fur trade industry and habitat loss have played roles in population declines.
The TPWD has fielded sightings at various Central Texas bodies of water over the past few years, along with north near the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Traditionally, they’re more likely to be found along the coastline of Texas, Alderson said.
“They are very secretive animals, so it’s not uncommon for them to be there just like a lot of our other wildlife species where they’re there, but we don’t, we just necessarily don’t always see them,” she said. “So we might see signs of them, whether it be through tracks or their dens or scat or something like that.”
While otters have been affected by fur trade efforts and habitat loss, Alderson said the agency is fielding more citizen reports. She added more people are realizing the efforts of environmental sustainability and protecting local rivers and creek systems.
“I think with people being more forward-thinking, being more green and environmentally conscious, that us protecting those greenways and the creeks and the river systems is definitely enhancing their habitat,” she said. “With them being out on the river in a more natural environment, I think it’s a really cool, something really cool and something to celebrate for sure.”
For any spectators, Alderson stresses they should enjoy the otters but from a distance.
“Don’t try to get too close to them. Definitely don’t try to feed them anything,” she said, adding, “and just appreciate them from a distance, take pictures from a distance and enjoy just watching them kind of do their thing.”