River otter attacks baffle authorities in Anchorage, Alaska

Officials say ‘care will be taken to remove only animals exhibiting unusual behaviors’ after woman, boy and dog are bitten

Residents of Anchorage, Alaska, used to living alongside moose and bear now face a threat from a more diminutive creature: the humble river otter.

On Friday, the Alaska department of fish and game alerted residents to a pack of aggressive otters which have attacked dogs, children and adults near creeks, rivers and lakes.

Humans are river otters’ only significant predator. Attacks the other way are not common, officials said. Nonetheless, a spate of reported incidents prompted the official warning.

“Because of the risk to public safety, efforts will be made to locate this group of river otters and remove them,” authorities said. “Care will be taken to only remove the animals exhibiting these unusual behaviors.”

Last week, a woman was bitten while rescuing her dog from otters at a lake. The same day, in another part of the city, a group of otters attacked a dog.

Earlier this month, a nine-year-old boy went to the emergency room after four otters chased him and his friends while they played near a duck pond in east Anchorage.

The boy’s mother, Tiffany Fernandez, told the Anchorage Daily News: “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.”

Authorities said the otters would be tested for rabies, which could explain their aggression, though there had been no recent reports of rabid otters in the region.

In July, a river otter tested positive for rabies more than 300 miles away in Dillingham, Alaska, which is reachable only by boat or plane.

A wildlife biologist who inspected the otter, Bryan Reiley, told Alaska Public Media the otter was covered in porcupine quills. The two species rarely interact because they prefer water and land respectively.

It is more common to see evidence of river otter activity than to see otters. Most often they live in groups, either mothers with pups or bachelor males banded together. Officials said they did not know the composition of the aggressive Anchorage pack.

Contributor

Amanda Holpuch

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
A tiny Alaska town is split over a goldmine. At stake is a way of life
In Haines, where the salmon once leaped under snow-capped mountains, a massive mining project promises well-paid jobs – and threatens a fragile ecosystem

Dominic Rushe in Haines, Alaska

22, Jun, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Terns follow record warm temperatures in 'shock' migration to north of Alaska
Researchers on north-west coast of Alaska startled to discover Caspian terns 1,000 miles farther north than species had been previously recorded

Oliver Milman

23, Sep, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
Rare spate of bear attacks leaves two dead in Alaska
Four people have been attacked in less than a week, resulting in two fatalities, in what wildlife experts are calling ‘a lightning strike’

Oliver Milman

27, Jun, 2017 @5:50 PM

Article image
New Trump public land rules will let Alaska hunters kill bear cubs in dens
The ‘amazingly cruel’ move by the National Park Service reverses Obama-era regulations which also affect wolves and coyotes

Emily Holden in Washington

28, May, 2020 @10:30 AM

Article image
Ripples from Pebble felt far from Alaska
Even Republicans are against the huge Pebble mine, which could ruin a pristine salmon fishery – but locals are in two minds

Blaine Harden in Lake Iliamna, Alaska

23, Jul, 2012 @4:28 PM

Article image
Stranded polar bears at Kaktovik, Barter Island, Alaska - in pictures

Dozens - possibly hundreds - of polar bears are becoming stranded on the north Alaskan coast because they cannot reach the retreating sea ice

16, Nov, 2011 @8:00 AM

Article image
Ursus gluttonous maximus: 480 Otis wins Alaska’s Fat Bear Week contest
Beefy brown bear, missing two teeth, triumphs in vote that compares pre-hibernation weight gain of bears in Katmai national park

Gloria Oladipo in New York

06, Oct, 2021 @3:55 PM

Article image
Pizzly or grolar bear: grizzly-polar hybrid is a new result of climate change
Grizzly bears in Alaska and Canada are moving north as their environment warms, bringing them into contact with polar bears located on the coastline

Oliver Milman

18, May, 2016 @5:19 PM

Article image
From Alaska to Australia, anxious observers fear mass shearwater deaths
Migratory short-tailed shearwaters are Australia’s most numerous seabird, but washed-up carcasses, late arrivals and low numbers have conservationists worried

Graham Readfearn

23, Nov, 2019 @7:00 PM

Alaska helicopter wolf kill raises concern of US park service

National Park Service expresses alarm over controlling state's predator population

McClatchy newspapers

17, Mar, 2009 @3:33 PM