HOUSTON — "They're otters!"
David Armendariz was rolling when he captured a romp -- yes, that's what a group of otters is called -- of otters swimming in Buffalo Bayou on Tuesday.
"They're pretty rare to see in the bayou, especially this close to downtown," says Simone Leonard, communications manager for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
Though they're rare, otters are definitely living along the bayou. They just do a good job hiding from people, according to Kevin Hodge, general curator at the Houston Zoo.
"The eastern part of Texas has otters and so does Louisiana all the way over to Florida," he says. "But most of the time, they go undiscovered."
If you do spot them, it can be tempting to get close, but remember: they're wild animals.
"They are natural predators. As cute and cuddly as they are, it's really important to give them space. Don't pick them up," Leonard says, adding to keep your dogs on a leash near the animals.
You can take a chance trying to spot otters in the wild, but if you want a guaranteed sighting, visit the Houston Zoo. It's home to three different species: North American Otter, Giant River Otter & Asian Small-Clawed Otter
"Otters are very, very active and it's fun to watch them swim around their habitat," says Hodge.
If you want to check out animals in their natural habitat, Hodge recommends visiting one of our local state parks, such as Brazos Bend, or taking a walk along a bayou.
"You can see loads of animals," he says. "Often on my lunch break, I'll go walk along the bayou. It's amazing the fish you can see right there, going right along the bayou."
Buffalo Bayou is home to all kinds of wildlife, including otters, turtles, rabbits, porcupines, ring-tailed cats and more.
"You'll always be amazed by the amount of wildlife you'll find in areas where you'd least expect it," says Hodge.
Too often, we forget Buffalo Bayou (and all the other bayous around the Houston area) are animal habitat. That's why it's important to clean up after yourself and others.
"[These animals] need clean water to survive," emphasizes Hodge.
The Buffalo Bayou Partnership's maintenance team keeps the bayou well-groomed and picks up trash around it. The clean-and-green team goes out on the water and clears out litter using its bayou-vac.
"They've taken couches. They've taken pillows. They've taken all kinds of things out of the water, things that animals can choke on and are really a hazard to them," Leonard says.
To learn more about the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and its efforts to revitalize and transform Buffalo Bayou, click here.