River otters are mysteriously attacking people and pets in Anchorage, Alaska prompting wildlife officials to warn the public to keep their distance.
According to the state’s Department of Fish and Game, a group of troublesome otters have attacked people in outdoor areas, such as lakes. It’s not clear what has prompted the unusual behavior but diseases such as rabies could be to blame.
Earlier this month, a nine-year-old boy, Ayden, was attacked by a group of four river otters near Dowling and Lake Otis.
His mother, Tiffany Fernandez, could not believe otters were responsible for the bite marks on her son’s legs, she told the Anchorage Daily News.
Ayden, his 13-year-old brother and two friends were on a bike ride in East Anchorage.
The group stopped at a pond on Carriage Drive when they noticed the otters but remained at a distance, Fernandez said.
River otters are mysteriously attacking people and pets in Anchorage, Alaska
A 9-year-old boy was taken to the hospital for a rabies shot after he was bit several times near a duck pond
Nine -year-old Ayden was taken to an emergency room for a rabies shot after being bitten several times near a duck pond on Carriage Drive. His mother is believed to have shared pictured of his injuries here
‘Around 7 p.m. my oldest son called me, and I thought he was joking when he said, ‘Mom, Ayden got bit by an otter,’ the mother said. ‘And I said, ‘What do you mean, an otter?’
Fernandez said her eldest son stopped to take a video of the otters, when one of them charged at his younger brother.
‘He has two fang marks on his back thigh, and one on the front thigh on each leg,’ she told the outlet. ‘One puncture wound on his foot. He ended up falling as he was running away and the otter got him on his back.’
Fernandez shared the pictures of her son’s bite scars on Nextdoor.
The boy was taken to an emergency room for a rabies shot after being bitten several times near a duck pond.
Other recent attacks include a woman who was bit while rescuing her dog from a pack of river otters near University Lake, as well as a another dog which was attacked on a different part of the lake.
There were two reported otter attacks at a similar time last year at University lake.
In October, a husky almost drowned after it was attacked by otters while swimming.
The attacks have occurred at popular outdoor areas, such as lakes. One woman was bit while rescuing her dog from a pack of river otters near University Lake, as well as a another dog which was attacked on a different part of the lake
‘First it was just the one otter on her, and then it seemed like three more,’ the owner, Kenny Brewer, told Alaska Public. ‘They started dragging her down, basically.
In November, a Labradoodle was pulled under the water twice by what its owner believed were otters or beavers.
‘The group composition of river otters responsible for the recent attacks is unknown,’ the government agency wrote in a statement.
‘River otters may travel long distances over land or by utilizing interconnected waterways, and it is possible that the same group of river otters were responsible for the attacks at both locations.
‘River otters have not been reported at the site of the September 1 incident since that time.’
According to PAWS, river otters are considered ‘social’ animals that are both very intelligent and highly curious.
They have been known to occasionally attack humans, according to a 2007 study from Yale University, but interactions are considered ‘rare’ due to low population numbers.
‘Aggressive encounters’ are even less frequent, the study added.
Citing the risk to public safety, Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game said ‘efforts will be made to locate this group of river otters and remove them.’
‘Care will be taken to only remove the animals exhibiting these unusual behaviors,’ the department added.
‘Due to their aggressive behavior toward people and pets, it is likely they would continue those actions in any new environment, making relocation problematic as it would simply move the dangerous behavior to another location.’
Two other incidents in which otters attacked and almost drowned dogs were reported at a similar time last year
Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said that any otters that have to be killed will be tested for rabies due to their ‘unusually aggressive behavior.’
‘There has not been a reported case of rabies in river otters in southcentral Alaska in recent years, however the possibility of disease concern remains.
River otter attacks do happen, but are not considered commonplace, Fish and Game said. It´s not known if the attacks came from the same group of otters, which can range over large swaths of land.
‘Because of the risk to public safety, efforts will be made to locate this group of river otters and remove them,’ Fish and Game said. ‘Care will be taken to only remove the animals exhibiting these unusual behaviors.’
Ninety percent of the world’s sea otters live in coastal Alaska to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.