Though usually regarded as adorable, otters are nothing to mess with.
That’s a lesson a group of women in Montana learned this week when an otter attacked them while recreating on the Jefferson River. All three women in the group were hurt, one severely enough to be hospitalized.
In Case Of Otter Attack, Fight Back
The women suffered the bite wounds Wednesday evening when they were attacked by an otter while floating on inner tubes on Montana’s Jefferson River, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. One of them suffered severe wounds to her arms and face and had to be airlifted to a hospital.
The women reported that at about 8:15 p.m., they were floating on the water when they saw two otters on the river. One of the otters approached and attacked them.
“The women got out of the water, and the otter swam away,” according to FWP.
Otter attacks are rare, but not unheard of in the region. One was reported in 2021 on the Big Hole River in Montana and in 2013 near West Yellowstone, Montana, on the Madison River.
Otters, which are members of the weasel family, might attack if they feel that their young or a food source is being threatened, according to FWP.
“If you are attacked by an otter, fight back, get away and out of the water and seek medical attention,” the agency recommends.
Same Situation In La Barge
Mike Schmid of La Barge told Cowboy State Daily that reports from Montana of this week’s otter attack practically mirror a previous attack near La Barge.
“About 10 to 12 years ago, some young boys were floating on the river near here and got attacked by otters. They were darn sure chewed up pretty badly. They required a lot of stiches,” said Schmid, who is a former member of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.
The Jefferson River attack sounds almost exactly like what happened near La Barge years ago, Schmid said.
The boys also were floating on inner tubes, he said.
“The kids just floated into where the otters were, and the otters turned on them and started chewing them up,” he said.
In both instances, he thinks the otters were probably trying to protect something, either their young — called “pups” — or a food stash.
“The otters might have had pups or a stash of fish nearby that the people didn’t see at the time,” he said.
Otters generally aren’t vicious and will usually try to avoid people, he added. Even so people also need to respect their space, just as they would with any other wild animal.
“I tell my grandkids, if you’re down by the river, you stay away from them otters,” he said.
Schmid did a fair amount of trapping when he was younger, but said that trapping otters is illegal, because they’re a federally protected species.
The number of otters seems to be increasing, he added.
He said his brother tried stocking a pond on his property near La Barge with trout, but “the otters moved in and were eating the trout faster than he could restock them in the pond.”
Ranchers, anglers and others are also reporting seeing increasing numbers of otters, Schmid said.
“It’s maybe getting to the point where we need to consider at least a limited trapping season for otters,” he said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.