FLORIDA — In California, organizations are desperately trying to save the endangered sea otters. On the flip side in Florida, local kayakers tried their best to deter ferocious attacks by an aggressive river otter that violently mauled Sue Spector, a 77-year-old woman.
While otters have been marked as playful, sweet creatures, in some cases it tends to elude humans that they are also carnivorous, feeding mostly on fish and shellfish, and are skilled predators, according to specialists. Even though humans are not on their menu, otters are capable of delivering powerful attacks as can be witnessed by the rare instances when they do attack humans such as what happened to Spector.
Marine otters tend to be very allusive creatures and typically avoid human contact – this has also been observed of river otters. Otter attacks are extremely rare, happening at frequencies of about once a year or less in most counties across North America. Good at hiding, otters will normally detect humans first. Encroaching on an otter’s territory if its cubs are nearby can cause them to become more confrontational. Otters have also been known to contract rabies and other diseases that could pose harm to other animals and people, although this is quite rare and unusual.
Marine Mammal Veterinarian, Cara Field, told SF Gate if one encounters a wild otter, be observant of their behavior and don’t get too close. One of the telltale signs you’ve entered an otter’s territory is if it is watching you or it alters it behaviors, such as it stops eating.
In 2016, two teenage boys were swimming in Shasta Lake in Northern California when a romp of otters attacked them. The boys made it out of the lake safely, but were covered in scratch marks and had to be taken to the hospital for a series of rabies shots. It was determined the boys did nothing to provoke the otters.
One of the miraculous parts of nature is the beauty in the varying ecosystems, plant life and animals, and it is normal to have a healthy curiosity about these incredible creatures or wanting to snap a picture of one. Keep in mind any wild animal can be dangerous. Be sure to respect the animal’s space to make sure you and the animal stay safe – even if it just appears to be a friendly neighborhood otter.