A 9-year-old boy was attacked by a river otter when the animal “charged” at him, leaving puncture wounds on his back and legs.
Tiffany Fernandez said two of her sons and two other friends were playing around a duck pond in East Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday evening when they spotted a group of otters.
“Him, his brother, and some friends were hanging around the pond when they noticed 4 river otters,” Fernandez said, describing the incident on the Nextdoor app in a bid to warn others in the community. “They stopped to watch them swim, when 1 of the otters started to charge at them. They all tried to run away from it, but unfortunately caught up to my 9-year-old.”
Fernandez then shared three photos of her son’s injuries from the attack, revealing a series of deep elongated wounds to the skin.
“He’s got bite marks/scratches on his back and legs. Pretty deep cuts,” she wrote alongside the snaps.
Describing the wounds in more detail in an interview with Anchorage Daily News, Fernandez added: “He has two fang marks on his back thigh, and one on the front thigh on each leg. [He has] one puncture wound on his foot.”
Fernandez said her older son was taking a video on his phone at the time, when one of the four otters strayed away from the pack and came toward the children.
“That’s when they all started running. One caught up to my 9-year-old and he got attacked,” Fernandez told the publication. “He ended up falling as he was running away and [the otter] got him on his back.”
Fernandez said she took her son to the emergency room, where he received a rabies shot and booster.
“We spent the evening in the ER. They got him cleaned up, bandaged, and started him on the rabies vaccine,” she recalled.
Dave Battle, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said there had only been a few incidents around town involving river otters and dogs over the last couple of years but nothing involving attacks on humans.
“The fact that an otter attacked a person was certainly surprising,” Battle told the Daily News, adding that he believed all the attacks he is aware of probably involved the same group of otters.
“We don’t know whether that’s always been the same group,” he said. “Logically, I would think that it probably is, because it’s such unusual behavior. It would be unlikely that multiple groups in the same city would suddenly start exhibiting the same type of behavior.”
Battle was unable to determine exactly why the otters attacked. “It could have been that the otters felt threatened, but it doesn’t appear to me these kids did anything wrong,” he said. “I think they were keeping a respectful distance, they were just watching the otters from a distance, and for some reason the otter ran up and just wanted to chase this kid down.”