I’ve been studying urban wildlife here in the metroplex for just over fifteen years now. Over that time I have had many encounters that I would characterize as strange or unusual. Urban wildlife can be incredibly adaptable—I’ve learned that lesson well. Few things surprise me anymore.

But every once in a while I still manage to come across something a little unexpected…

The picture below was shared with me by Mark Adame, a science teacher who works in North Dallas. What we have here is a roadkill River Otter. Surprisingly, Mark found the otter carcass on Preston Road, well inside the LBJ freeway loop (Interstate 635). This is just a few miles from downtown Dallas, and in area that is fully built out—houses, businesses, and schools for miles in all directions. Hardly what I would consider great River Otter habitat.

A roadkill North American River Otter
found in a very unexpected place

Even more, there are only a few significant water feature in the immediate area. So how did the otter get here to meet this unfortunate end?

The answer is in the small, unnamed tributaries of White Rock Creek and Bachman Branch that approach Preston Road in a couple of different places. Both White Rock Creek and Bachman Branch flow into the Trinity River. Both are known to have River Otter populations. Certainly, exploring Otters occasionally make their way up their minor tributaries as well. This one ran out of luck when he ran out of stream bed and was forced to cross busy Preston Road.

A typical suburban streambed running though North Dallas
Preston Road inside the I-635 loop

River Otters are strange animals. Their behaviors are sometimes hard to reconcile. Otters are seldom seen in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, but when they are observed, they rarely appear to be shy or retiring in their actions. In fact, in many encounters otters even appear curious about the people watching them.

I’m sometimes asked why I publish pictures and stories of roadkill animals. The answer is in this article. Roadkill is evidence. Sometimes it is the only evidence. Roadkill can reveal the presence of wildlife that might not be generally recognized otherwise. An unexpected find like this one is an excellent case in point.

Further, roadkill is a reminder that thoroughfares are perhaps the most difficult challenge faced by our urban wildlife. Animals living in the city could certainly benefit from a little extra consideration from harried urban commuters.

I can understand why some people find images of roadkill disturbing. Nobody enjoys seeing animals in such a state. But if the images are not overly graphic, I believe there is much to be learned by sharing them.