In an incident described as a “rare” occurrence, three women were attacked by an otter while floating on inner tubes in the Jefferson River near the Sappington Bridge in Montana.
The attack took place at approximately 8:15 p.m. last Wednesday, prompting the injured women to seek medical assistance.
According to a press release from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the otter approached the women and inflicted injuries on all three individuals while they were tubing down the river.
After making it to the shore, they contacted emergency services, leading to the involvement of various law enforcement, emergency, and wildlife agencies.
One of the women, Jen Royce, had to be airlifted from the scene, while all of them required medical treatment.
“I saw one otter right behind my friend before it attacked,” Royce said about the incident. “I didn’t even have a chance to get the words ‘there is an otter behind you’ out of me before it attacked her.”
She explained that the otter was “vicious and relentless,” and bit her face in several places, along with both ears, and all of her extremities.
Royce said that her friends were both bit on their butts and hands, while the otter left one of the women’s thumbs “shredded.”
They were in deep water at the time of the attack, which gave the animal the upper hand.
“The water was definitely where they excelled in their attack and we were helpless. I tried to kick it away but I would just get attacked somewhere else,” she detailed in a Facebook post.
She was able to escape by holding the otter by the arm while she swam closer to shore, and was able to “fight back better” after gaining her footing.
Royce said she didn’t think she “was going to make it out of that river,” and wasn’t sure if either of her friends would either.
When the attack ended, Royce and one friend were on opposite sides of the shore, while the other was stranded in the water on a rock.
One of the women managed to send an emergency SOS message to call for help, and first responders came to their rescue in under an hour.
She was airlifted to a hospital and underwent emergency surgery for her extensive injuries.
“Besides my face, I have puncture wounds to my left ankle, both legs, back of my right thigh, both arms, both hands, and all fingers,” she said about the injuries.
“My left ear is split in half from the top to the bottom and is being held together with some kind of yellow bandage and stitches on both sides.”
“I have lost almost half of my right ear,” Royce concluded. “But I am lucky, and I am grateful, and I am alive.”
The press release stated that while otter attacks are uncommon, otters can exhibit protectiveness towards themselves and their young, especially in close proximity.
The statement pointed out that otters give birth in April and can often be seen with their young in the water during the summer and may also display defensive behavior when it comes to limited food resources.
In response to the incident, authorities have placed warning notices around the Jefferson River to alert leisure seekers about recent otter activity.
Morgan Jacobsen, a representative from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, mentioned that there have been no reported sightings of otters in the area since the attack. Currently, there are no plans to track, trap, or remove the otters.
In the event of an otter attack, fish and wildlife officials advise victims to fight back, exit the water, and seek immediate medical attention.