River Otter at Little Piney, Bastrop TX

Tammy Brown

River Otter Encounter

One of the most delightful surprises at Little Piney is the occasional sighting of North American river otters. River otters are often seen in the Colorado River near Bastrop, but we are miles from the river.   I am very curious how otters find their way to the small lake/wide creek at Little Piney.

I approached the lake slowly and quietly, following the shadows, peering over the rushes with my binoculars.  An Osprey flew up and away with its strange, shrill cry.  As I scanned the surface for Wood Ducks or Mergansers, I was thrilled to see the rolling back and tail of an otter diving into the lake for fish.

Otter  sightings are rare around here.  They are know to be shy and elusive.  When we do see them, it’s usually only for a few seconds.

This time was different.  The otter was aware of my presence across the creek, but didn’t seem to mind.  I was able to watched the otter for about 12 minutes, as he fished, swam, groomed himself on shore, slipped back into the water, and swam away.

The River Otter story in pictures:

River Otter, Bastrop, TX
The long body of the otter as he swam up to the shore.

River otter, Bastrop TX
The otter grooming his long tail
River otter, Bastrop TX
River otter grooming his long tail.
River Otter, Bastrop, TX
He rubbed his face on the log. Notice the leathery paws!
River otter, Bastrop TX
The otter saw me, but decided I wasn’t a threat.
River otter, Bastrop TX
More grooming.



River otter, Bastrop TX
After cleaning himself, the otter rolled in the leaves for awhile.
River otter, Bastrop TX
More rolling in the leaves!
He climbed back down to the water, slid in, and went under.
River otter, Bastrop TX
That’s when the second otter emerged from the hollow in the bank and followed the first away and down the creek!

River Otters in Texas

River Otter territory has expanded in Texas over the past ten years.  They were once common only in East Texas and the Gulf Coast.  I was surprised to see that otters can be legally hunted in Texas even though they require permits and must be tagged.  I hope this pair remains elusive and safe.