On Wednesday, August 2, an otter attacked three women on the Jefferson River outside of Bozeman, Montana. According to a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) press release, the women were floating in inner tubes three miles upstream of Sappington Bridge. They observed several otters before they were approached and attacked by at least one of them.
All of the women were injured and received medical treatment in Bozeman. One woman whose injuries were more serious was taken to the hospital via life-flight helicopter. According to the Associated Press, all three of the women sustained wounds on their arms, and the woman who was transported by helicopter suffered injuries to her face.
Otter attacks are exceedingly rare. “It’s just not something you run into very often,” Jefferson County Undersheriff James Everett told the AP. “Bears do it, moose too, and occasionally a deer, but otters? That’s not normal.”
According to Everett if someone is attacked by an otter, it’s best to fight back and get out of the water as quickly as possible. Seeking quick medical attention is also important, he said, as otters have been known to carry rabies.
According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Journal in 2016, only 44 otter attacks have occurred since 1875. When they do occur, they’re often the consequence of human encroachment upon otter territory. And the resulting injuries may be quite severe because river otters have sharp canines and carnassials (sheering teeth meant for cutting meat).
In this case, it is unclear how close the women were to the otters before the attack occurred. In response to the incident, FWP staff have posted signs at surrounding areas advising outdoor recreationists of the aggressive otter activity. But the agency said that “no further management action is planned at this time.”