Texas River Otters

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.

41 Responses to “Texas River Otters”

  1. Robert Wilkinson Says:

    I came across a dead adult river otter late in the afternoon on Friday, February 13, 2009, while on an afternoon bike ride. The otter was located on the north shoulder of Highway 79 east of the Mud Creek bridge between New Summerfield and Jacksonville. – RLW

  2. Robin McDonald Says:

    I saw some “roadkill” unlike anything I had ever seen in east Texas this week. I passed it everyday on Hwy 300 between Gilmer and Longview and was so curious that I finally stopped to see what it was. I was curious because it was as big as a beaver and brown,but from a distance it looked like it had a skinny tail so I knew it wasn’t a beaver. I stopped today, Friday, February 20, 2009. A friend said that they thought it might be a nutra rat, but from researching on the internet I know for sur it wasn’t. It had webbed feet and a smaller face like a weasel or ferret like. I was shocked! I’ve lived here for 30 years and have never seen an otter before (except in the Zoo).

  3. Rocky Road Says:

    Rock on

  4. Jack Harlin Says:

    I spotted an otter on 3/4/09 at 3:00 PM 2.5 miles east of US Hwy 59 on FM124. This location is just north of Irons bayou and a rather large pond. The pond had a bever den in it the last time I went to it.

  5. Tucker Says:

    I stopped the car and inspected a roadkill river otter at the intersection of State Highway 6 and FM 2159 in Robertson County today, three miles north of Calvert.

  6. ole david boy Says:

    My brother has spotted a family of river otters in my family`s 10 acre stock tank. Unmistakable. They were not nutras as they looked up and turned their heads 180 degrees while swimming. Location is milam county a few miles north west of cameron. Have never seen anything like it in 40 years of owning the property.

  7. Wynswid Says:

    I just saw 3 dead otters on a bridge outside of Longview/Lakeport on 149; two adults and a baby.

  8. Juan P Gandara Says:

    I saw 3 otters today 8/8/2009 on Pinkston Reservoir. I am certain they were not beaver or nutrias. When I got back, I checked a distribution map for the otters, and found that they do exist in this area. Amazing animals.

  9. Ginny H Says:

    My Hubby and I discovered a family of 3 river otters enjoying the crawfish and other tidbits in our family`s 2 acre stock tank. Unmistakable fun! Location is Fannin County, TX, near the Caddo Grasslands area. A first for us!

  10. Eric T. Williams Says:

    Thank god I’m not crazy !

  11. Ronnie Krotofil Says:

    I didn’t know there were otters in Texas, but I did see two of them at about 2:00 p.m. on August 20th in Peach Creek. This is located in Gonzales County, about 5 miles south of Interstate 10. This particular stretch of creek holds water year-round and there is a lot of timber in the water and on the banks.

  12. G Terry Says:

    I live in Burnet County on Rocky Creek, we have about 650 acres. I went down to the Creek on Sept. 8, 2009 about 12:30 in the afternoon. We have a picnic area and I went turn on some sprinklers and heard a noise. I looked down at the creek and thought I saw a couple of black ducks in the water, I looked again and couldn’t believe my eyes. I have never seen an otter before. There was an adult and two smaller ones just swimming the in the creek doing flips in the water having a good ole time. The adult caught a fish and was eating it and I kept hearing a sound not sure what it was, it was coming from up the creek just a little bit out of my sight. The two smaller ones kept looking up the creek every time they heard it. Pretty soon another adult came swimming down to the others.
    I sat down and just watched in amazement, I couldn’t believe my eyes. After a while they started swimming up stream so I got my binoculars out of the car and followed them so they wouldn’t see me. They just swam around playing. After a while I couldn’t stand it any longer I crept closer for a better view. They spotted me and the largest one of the bunch started kind of snorting at me. I decided it was time to leave them be,so I left. I did get a really good look at them and told my brothers what I had saw. They thought I had seen and nutria. I have seen nutria and beavers before and was confident this is NOT what I saw. When I got home I did a search on the internet and sure enough it was otters.
    We have been in a drought around here but have water in the creek due to some springs. I have lived here over 40 years and have never seen any otters. Wildlife still amazes me!! I hope I am lucky enough to see them again.

  13. G Terry Says:

    I submitted the wrong date. It was Monday the 7th. Sorry about that!

  14. Leslie M Says:

    On Monday, 7 Sept I was resting in the shade while in my kayak on Lake Sam Rayburn (vicinity of Cassells Boykin ramp, in lily pads). I saw a flash of sliver off to my right and when I focused on the area a large weasel head popped out of the water and hissed at me! I was startled but then the head went back underwater only to pop up a few feet closer and hiss at me again. I realized what it was and figured that I wasn’t in danger, so long as I stayed put, so I hissed back. HA! That got its attention! It stayed up for a few moments and we continued our hissing conversation until it got bored with me; went down and then popped up again along a 25 foot perimeter. I enjoyed our hissing conversations so I started hissing again and we went on like this for about ten minutes until the otter had reached the far side of the perimeter. What an experience. I only wish I had a red ball to toss to it so we could have played ball…..

  15. Danny Williams Says:

    Spotted and got some good pictures of a momma and three young ones in a tank in Waller county, 5 miles north of Hempstead a few weeks ago. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=139748&id=557220277&l=111e0710ee

  16. Caryl Hubert Says:

    Today, about 5 p.m., I was walking around Pier 19 in Galveston down near the Mosquito Fleet shrimp docks behind Joe’s Crab Shack. I spotted what I first thought was a nutria, but the tail was quite thick and his body was long like a weasel. He was chewing with relish on a huge fish head. He was at the edge of the rubble base of the building. I took several pictures that clearly match the river otters on the internet. I have lived in Texas over 60 years and never in my life seen an otter. That is salt water, not brackish….& he looked quite healthy in spite of it. He even performed a swim/dive display for us…then came back and finished his fish head dinner. What a thrill…maybe Ike brought him to us.

  17. Arborista Says:

    I’ve 4-5 River Otters in Texas while doing work for TFWS. But today I saw an otter in Harris County in a drainage ditch on the Katy Prairie west of Katy Hockley Cutoff.

  18. Jefferson E. Way Says:

    We live on Trinity Bay in Beach City Texas. In our back yard is a fishing pier that extends 250′ from the bulkhead into the bay and at the end of the pier is a boat house. Along the pier and under the boat house we set out crab traps during most of the year. There is a variety of bait we use including chicken quarters, remains of fish after cleaning, mullet and hardheads. For several months our traps had been raided, the bait removed and our only clue was the mostly eaten remains and stool left under the boat house.

    After several months we finally discovered the bait thief. It was River Otters. They remove as much of the bait as they want and place it on the pier under the boat house and then they have a feast. We now always know to expect the Otters when we have our traps baited. This morning our little Yorki ran out to the end of the pier and chased the otters off. After they were chased off, they hung around for a short time and watched us.

  19. Morgan Says:

    Just moved to Jamaica beach next to Galveston, Tx. I would never believed if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. A otter was swimming in the canal (salt water) at night. We had a under water light and the otter was playing in the lit water.

  20. Jason & Jenn Says:

    This evening my husband and I were watching the incredible abundance of hard heads under the Kemah Boardwalk. Suddenly they all began to scatter as we saw a very thick tail slither through. At first we thought it was a huge fish but it turned out to be an otter! We were shocked! He quickly disappeared under the boardwalk. We went down to another area where the hard heads usually gather to see if he would make another appearance. After just a minute, he reappeared and scattered the fish again. He even rolled over on his back and cleaned his face for us before disappearing again! We’re guessing he’s a Kemah regular!

  21. Shari Says:

    Morgan, we saw also saw an Otter today in Jamaica beach area.

  22. Mark Says:

    We had a very healthy looking adult otter in our backyard Saturday morning, 11/31. We live in a subdivision just outside Princeton, which is approx 6 miles east of McKinney on 380. What a wonderful surprise and a beautiful animal,,, no camera handy at the time but did get a picture of a paw print in mud where he/she went under the fence.

  23. Laura Says:

    Saw an otter at Anahuac N.W.R. on October 31st, a first for me. I had no idea river otters would tolerate salt or brackish water.

  24. Brent Says:

    I had one otter cross in frount of my truck, on private land south of Ceader Creek lake. This area is a old sand pit and is full of fish. This was my first encounter. It was very cool..

  25. Jerome Says:

    Saw 3 otters in Armand Bayou on 11/27/09 while canoeing. They were definitely doing the normal otter things, but I think they were foraging close to the banks. I paddled after them on several occasions, but they appeard to be a little upset with me giving chase. The second time I spoted them, one definitely had his lunch and was looking for a place to eat in peace. The high pitched chirping sounds that they were making when separated were very interesting. You can check out the new photos section on my website for the pics (not very good). I took several of the pics and made a collage. Enjoy.

  26. Jerome Says:

    Sorry for the double hit. The website is http://www.wanam3.com for the 2 photos.

  27. Greg Says:

    Unfortunately, the only otter I have seen in the “wild” was this past weekend in Burleson County, where it had been killed while crossing a FM highway. After driving past it a couple of times, I fianlly stopped to verify what it was. An otter for sure!

  28. randogg Says:

    There has been some recent otter observation occurring in Trinity Bay near Beach City…. followed by some interesting otter discussions (about them, not with them).

    and Jerome… thanks for sharing your website and “(not very good)” pictures. They’re awesome.

  29. Cecilia Says:


    Thanks for sharing your website with the wonderful images of the otters! I am amazed at how many folks have spotted these critters, and am grateful to everyone who has posted their sightings.

    I’ve been forwarding your reports to Gary Calkins, who coordinates information on Texas River Otters for Parks and Wildlife; he’s been blown away by where these little guys have been showing up.

    Thanks again, everyone. Keep those otter sightings coming!

    Cecilia Nasti
    Producer & Host
    Passport to Texas

  30. Tami Barugh Says:

    We live in the country about 7 miles northeast of Crockett Texas. This morning looked out the window onto the pond and thought we saw beavers. Usually the beavers are only active around us at night.

    Got really good video of two otters playing around in the pond for us. Really active and a true comedy team.

    I’ve seen otters before, but not two at a time.

  31. sam Says:

    Harris county, 1st time i saw em was on the lower san jac river while 4 wheelin, could see the dam we saw something running thru the woods, my bud looking seperated them, they whisteled back and forth till they hit the water. bout 7 yrs ago, then i found a road kill on martinville rd off of richey st in south houston, (by kroger?)12/9/09, took a pic with my cell phone

  32. David Fisher Says:

    Saw an otter swimming and diving in our pond about forty yards from our back porch in Silsbee, Texas. Saw it on Saturday morning and was amazed. Saw it agin this morning. Wonder if it ate our semi-pet duck a couple of weeks ago. I found a pile of feathers, two duck feet and a spine in our yard.

  33. Harold Huff Says:

    I just watched two otters playing in my pond near Cat Spring in Austin County. We have had Beaver before but this was a first seeing the River Otter here. Beautiful

  34. Barb H Says:

    Sorry to say I saw a otter dead on 34 in Terrell. Thought that was an odd place for an otter, in the middle of town. Don’t think there is any waterways that close.

  35. Pam S. Says:

    We live on Lake Conroe in Montgomery, Texas and this past Saturday evening we had an otter on our outdoor porch. We saw him from the window scampering across the porch and down the steps. My husband followed him across the golf course and watched him dive into the lake. We couldn’t believe it, had no idea there were otters in the lake here.

  36. kyle Says:

    Local lake in Mckinney has otters so I’ve been told. Saw one hit by a car this weekend by Vergina and Lake Forest. I’ve seen Nutra before and even a Beaver killed in the same place but this was for sure a otter. Sad, but exciting to know they are living in the middle of town.

  37. TIM T. Says:

    FEB. 8TH, 2010


  38. Al Kohutek Says:

    A Lake Vilbig otter

    http://s257.photobucket.com/albums/hh212/lake_vilbig1/misc pictures/Lake Vilbig Otter/

  39. Al Kohutek Says:

    a lake Vilbig otter


  40. guy crain Says:

    I live in nw. harris county in an apt complex and behind us there is a bayou and there is a river otter in it i see it every night at the same time feeding along the banks and this has been going on for about three weeks. now and for the first time tonight i seen it up close on the bank across the bayou it was the amazing. thing i’d ever seen…

  41. Bill Boyd Says:

    We watched a group of five otters playing along our shoreline, and on the dock, on ‘Little Lake Conroe’, near Conroe, Texas. We thought it was a Nutrea Rat, when we first saw one in the water. We watched a bit, and spotted five of them together, being very playful in, and out, of the water. Then they climbed onto the dock…one of them had a fish, and the others were trying to get it. Seemed to be more of a game, than anything else. Then they all moved on down the shoreline. We hope to see them again.

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