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Jefferson River otter attack sends woman to hospital

otter ynp.jpeg
Posted at 11:26 AM, Aug 03, 2023

(Updated 5:40 p.m. MDT, 08/03/2023)

BOZEMAN — An evening float turned into an emergency encounter: three women were reportedly attacked by otters while floating the Jefferson River on Wednesday night.

Just after 8 p.m. Wednesday, the women were floating a stretch of the Jefferson River near Lewis and Clark Caverns when they encountered some otters. The otters attacked, destroying an inner tube, and injured all three women before they were able to get out of the water.

One of the women was seriously injured and flown to the hospital in Bozeman with severe bites to her face and arms.

MTN's Chet Layman spoke with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks about the incident.

“The women were able to get to shore, two of them on one side, one on the other side of the river, and the otter left the area. All three women received injuries in the encounter,” said Morgan Jacobsen with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “One of the women had injuries that were more serious; she was taken by helicopter to a hospital here in Bozeman. All three women have received treatment for their injuries.”

Jacobsen stresses otters are in just about every river in southwest Montana, and though attacks are rare, they do happen: a woman on the Madison in 2016, a young boy on the Big Hole in 2021.

This attack he says appears defensive.

“At this point, we haven't gotten reports of otter being seen in this area since then. We don’t have any plans at this time to try and locate or to trap and remove these otters, but we are posting signs in these areas advising visitors that there is otter activity going on in the area, to be aware of that,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen stresses attention when recreating on waterways, especially this time of year.

“When water levels are lower, that brings people who are recreating on rivers to closer proximity with wildlife that may be on those rivers as well. There’s just less water, less space, and so keep that in mind when you're out recreating, to do all you can to keep your distance from wildlife,” he said.