In his nearly 25-year-long career with Florida Highway Patrol, Sgt. Steve Gaskins has dealt with plenty of deer, bears, pelicans and even alligators.
But until Sunday afternoon, Gaskins, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, had never heard of a trooper dealing with an otter.
That’s when troopers received a call about an otter scampering on the shoulder of Gandy Boulevard by the Fourth street overpass in St. Petersburg. A passerby with a net and pet carrier helped wrangle the otter to safety.
Troopers released the otter into a nearby pond, where the animal swam off safely. North American river otters prefer fresh water, where they dig dens and give birth to their babies in the spring, according to the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory.
Despite the numerous animals troopers encounter, they don’t get any special training for it, Gaskins said. If an animal is injured or needs more attention, they contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“In this case we just cornered the otter and put him in the pond somewhere nearby,” he said. “Problem solved.”
Statewide, accidents with deer are the most common. Up in the panhandle, it’s bears. Gaskins once pulled up on an alligator in the road and tried to scare it back into the water with the vehicle’s horn and lights.
But in the Tampa Bay area, troopers tend to deal with pelicans, like the one caught in fishing line on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 2017, Gaskins said.
The passerby who helped the otter rescue was not immediately available for comment.