Dateline – Late Spring 2020 – Carrollton, Texas

There’s something very satisfying about encountering a wildlife phenomenon in person for the first time. This River Otter latrine—found on the banks of the Trinity River in Carrollton, Texas—is a great example of what I’m talking about. I’ve been reading about these things for years, but have never before stumbled across one.

A River Otter latrine on the banks of the Trinity River.
Otter scat is filled with the crushed exoskeletons
of crayfish, among other things
A North Texas River Otter

So, what is a River Otter latrine anyways? Well, it’s just what it sounds like. It’s a spot on the banks of a waterway inhabited by River Otters that is used as a communal restroom.

I’m not sure exactly why otters engage in this type of behavior, but the phenomenon is well documented. You can read more about it here in this article by the Smithsonian Magazine… River Otters Take “Party Pooping” To A New Level

Coincidentally, this article also solved a decade old mystery for me. The story contained some new information about otter behavior that I have not read about before. In addition to scat, River Otters also leave behind something called “anal jelly” at these latrine sites. Here’s how the article describes it…

It’s not just poop you find in latrines. River otters also leave “anal jelly.” We’re not talking about the store-bought jelly in glass jars found in grocery stores; we’re talking stinky goo from inside of the otter. It has a jelly-like consistency and is thought to be the shedding of the otter’s intestinal lining, along with some undigested bits of food, and anal secretions to add a personal fragrance (eau de otter).

I actually discovered some of this stuff years ago deep inside the Great Trinity Forest way back in the summer of 2012. I found the bright yellow goo lying in the middle of a heavily used game trail. At the time, it was being fed upon by flies and large black carpenter ants.

I had no idea what the stuff could be… all I could imagine is that it was some kind of egg yolk—but there was no eggshell to be found anywhere in the immediate area. I took a few pictures, and left for home hoping that I could solve the mystery with the help of Google. But, I had no luck, and I have wondered about the discovery ever since. It’s nice to finally have an answer for the very old question!

River Otter Anal Jelly discovered in the Great Trinity Forest
in the summer of 2012.
Click here to see more pictures…

I came across this new otter latrine in Carrollton purely by accident. I setup a camera trap at this spot only because I was led to it by a small-animal game trail. If the latrine was there when I installed the trail camera, I certainly did not notice it. But when I returned to service the camera, the amount of fish scale and crushed crayfish carapace filled scat present was impossible to miss! See below for video footage of the otter family making use of this location on the river bank…

River Otters doing River Otter type things…

One of the amazing things about this otter latrine is the sheer number of other animals that were attracted to this spot on the river. Almost every imaginable small mammal native to North Texas made a quick appearance. Some even demonstrated a few of their more unique behaviors. Have a look at the videos below…

Nine-banded Armadillos foraging on the banks of the Trinity River
North American Beavers coming and going
A Coyote and a Bobcat
Virginia Opossums
River Raccoons getting into mischief

Here is how Wikipedia describes raccoon mating practices, some of which are illustrated in the video below…

During the mating season, males restlessly roam their home ranges in search of females in an attempt to court them during the three- to four-day period when conception is possible. These encounters will often occur at central meeting places. Copulation, including foreplay, can last over an hour and is repeated over several nights. The weaker members of a male social group also are assumed to get the opportunity to mate, since the stronger ones cannot mate with all available females.

Raccoons trying to sort out late season mating rituals
on the banks of the mighty Trinity River
Small mammals… Fox Squirrel, Deermouse, Eastern Cottontail,
Eastern Woodrat, and Feral Piglets