Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Residents surprised to find otter

Lakewood Elementary School teacher Angela Chrestman was taking her son Nathan to school when they drove past an otter that had died near the main road of FM 2305 near Lakewood Ranch. Naturally they didn't believe their eyes, but after talking with her son, they did a u-turn to go back and see if really was an otter.

She took a picture of it and sent it to a friend who is familiar with animals and he confirmed it was an otter.

"It was huge, I didn't know otters got that big. At first I thought it was a dog, but when we got closer I really didn't know what it was. Nathan made me turn around because he knew right away what it was. I never knew there were otters in Texas. At first we thought it might be somebody's pet or something. Most people don't know they live in Texas. I didn't know we had otters so it was hard to believe what I was seeing," said Chrestman.

In Texas, otters usually live on the rivers in the eastern part of the state and they are rarely ever seen. Their habitat shrunk from over-trapping, but they have never been extinct in Texas. They do live on lakes and streams and along the bayous and marshes of the coast. They are playful animals that can hold their breath for minutes at a time. They have been known to travel long distances over land from one body of water to the next, according the Texas Parks and Wildlife. They can take care of themselves and have been known to take over a beaver damn.

Although they are very active, they are rarely seen. The love crawfish but eat a variety of mollusks, birds, reptiles and animals. They eat fish and prefer rough fish. There isn't a lot know about their habits in Texas because they are very hard to trap and are not easily attached to a radio transmitter.

"We get calls about otter sightings in Bell County. There are otters in Bell County. They stay near the rivers and creeks in Texas and have always been on the coast. It has been dryer the past three or four years so they have been moving more. They just are not seen a lot. They are secretive animals but they are here. We talk to a lot of people who call because they saw one but do not know what they saw. A beaver is brown and an otter is jet black. One of the things we ask is, 'Are your trees getting chopped down?'," said TPW biologist Derrick Wolter, who works in their Austin offices.