Archive for January 9th, 2009

Texas River Otters

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

What do zoos and East Texas rivers have in common? Both are playground to the river otter!

We have a lot of water, rivers. Full of fish, full of crawdads. It’s just an ideal habitat out here. It’s just that you’re just generally not going to get to see one.

Gary Calkins is District Leader for the Pineywoods Ecological area.

It’s not like a deer that you can drive by and shine a spotlight. Otters stay primarily in the water. They will come out on land, but it’s only in little specific areas. And so unless you know their behaviors and what areas to go look for sign coming up onto the land. It just makes it really tough to find them.

Imagine, then, trying to get a head count…Every three years, Parks and Wildlife biologists conduct surveys under the 254 bridges in East Texas to track the population and distribution of river otters.

Someone will crawl under that bridge and look in the sand or mud for tracks or scat. And then we’re gonna take a subset of those 254 bridges and instead of surveying them once [during the survey period] we’ll go back repeatedly. We’ll also do transects a hundred meters upstream and downstream and look for sign. And through a big statistical formula you can tell if there are no animals there or if you are just missing finding them.

And finding them is worth the while. Calkins says they’re nature’s answer to the comedian, and in some instances, they’ll actually kind of show off for you.

That’s our show…with research and writing help from Sarah Loden… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.