River otters appear to be making comeback in Texas

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials, river otters appear to be making a comeback in the Lone Star State. 

Kelly Simon, an urban wildlife biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, says river otters have not been common in “recent memory” but things are changing. 

“[River otters have] been primarily found in the eastern parts of Texas, as well as the United States," Simon said. "So, what we’re seeing is not only an increase perhaps in populations but also maybe a bit of a westward expansion of their population." 

Simon attributes the apparent population increase to the reduction in fur trade and better river management, though, she says due to limited staffing, Texas Parks and Wildlife have not been able to keep tabs on the otter population through the years. Citizen reporting apps, such as iNaturalist, show trends that point to an increase in population, but it is possible there is simply peaked interest and ability to report, given new technology. 

“If people are interested in river otters, we really encourage that curiosity,” said Simon. 

Texas Parks and Wildlife also encourages the preservation of river otter habitat. Vegetation around and in waterways is imperative to their survival. 

“River otter are a species of greatest conservation need -- that’s a group of species they’re not threatened, they’re not endangered, but they are a species we might be concerned about, their habitat might be imperiled,” said Simon, pointing to a bill recently introduced to Congress.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, or RAWA, would provide $1.3 billion annually to state initiatives and $97.5 million to tribal nations to support at-risk fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. Texas is home to more than 1,300 of the 12,000 plant and animal species identified nationwide as "Species of Greatest Conservation Need."

To find out where river otters have been spotted near you, visit here.