It appears to be a mother otter with pups, said Capt. Alan Myers with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. Experts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services office are working to trap the animals.
Myers expects that the mom and pups will be relocated to a remote area of the state rather than being euthanized. Doctors have not requested rabies tests, and otters are not known to carry rabies in Washington state, Myers said.
Officials believe the mother otter is behind an attack on Bryce Moser and Roxane Leilani Grove, who were playing in the river on the morning of July 31 near Lake Connor Park, a private park in Lake Stevens.
Grove rushed in to save Moser when an otter pulled him off a rope swing and into the river.
The otter attacked Grove and refused to let go until three family members fended it off with sticks and an old umbrella, said Dean Springer, Grove's brother-in-law.
One of Grove's eyes was severely injured, and Springer said she has gone through multiple surgeries since the attack.
The otter also may be responsible for another attack in July. Radek Bazant and Sally Kuhlman, of Lake Stevens, said they were floating on the Pilchuck River near their homes when an otter gashed Bazant's leg.
Myers said the most likely explanations for otter attacks are a mother defending pups or a male defending territory. A male otter would likely be euthanized after a serious attack, he said.
Once the female otter and pups are caught and relocated, officials plan to keep an eye on the area and warn people about staying safe around wildlife.
There's no way to be 100 percent certain this is the otter behind the attack, Myers said.
“There's many otters in the area,” Myers said. “Otter move many, many miles up and down the river.”
He said people should continue to be cautious in the river and never approach wildlife. Any wild animal can be dangerous if it feels threatened.
Herald photographer Mark Mulligan contributed to this report.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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