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Wild otter spotted in North Memphis neighborhood

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rising water on the Wolf River may be responsible for pushing a wild river otter into a North Memphis neighborhood.

Henry Campbell spotted the animal wandering around homes and yards on Shannon Avenue. The neighborhood is just a few yards from the Wolf River levee, but is surrounded by commercial and industrial areas and not usually home to wildlife.

In more than 30 years on the street, Campbell said he’d never seen an animal like this walk up from the river. His former neighbor, Jimmy Jones, said he thinks he spotted a panther in the same place during the flood of 2011.

Neighbors gathered to take a look at the otter, which had taken refuge in a backyard Wednesday.

Wildlife expert Alan Peterson with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in Jackson, said river otters used to be rare in this area because of hunting, but now hunters bag about 400 of them each year in West Tennessee. The animals have migrated up the Mississippi Valley and were restocked in the 1980s.

However, he said, seeing one in an urban area is unusual.

“You don’t see them a lot because most of the time they’re underwater and they’re real secretive, but they’re a lot more common than you think,” Peterson said.

The best thing to do if you see one in your neighborhood is to leave it alone, he said.