Otter attacks, injures boy and grandmother on Pilchuck River

LAKE STEVENS — A boy and his grandmother were taken to a hospital with serious injuries Thursday morning after a river otter attacked them near Lake Connor Park in Lake Stevens.

The boy was swimming in the Pilchuck River with his grandmother around 11 a.m. when the otter attacked, said Capt. Alan Myers with the state Department of Fish &Wildlife. When the grandmother attempted to fend off the otter, the animal attacked her, as well.

Based on initial reports, the boy likely needs stitches and his grandmother has a severe eye injury, Myers said.

Names, ages and current conditions of the boy and grandmother were not immediately available.

The otter had not been caught as of Thursday evening. A trapper was unable to locate a den in the area where the attack happened.

If caught, the otter may be euthanized or relocated, Myers said. Officials are waiting to hear from doctors about whether a rabies test is needed.

“When an animal has attacked a human, it becomes hard to justify setting it free again,” Myers said.

Ruth Milner, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Fish &Wildlife, said this is the first time she’s dealt with an otter attack in Snohomish or Island counties. However, she’s heard of them elsewhere in the state and country.

“Otter attacks are uncommon, but they have happened,” Milner said. “They’re not normally perceived as dangerous animals, but any animal can be aggressive in the wrong circumstances.”

River otters are not particularly common in the area, Milner said. The state does not have detailed population information.

River otters are muscular and can weigh up to 30 pounds. They are armed with sharp canines and claws. They have large home territories and may travel miles along a river for food and shelter.

They are carnivorous and related to wolverines, mink and weasels.

“I can’t begin to go into the mind of this animal and tell you why it did what it did,” she said. “It could have felt threatened by the human activity in the area. Normally otters are fairly calm around people. They hang around boat docks and that sort of thing.”

She said her best advice for people around any wild animal is to back away slowly. Never attempt to approach or touch the creature.

“Animals have a fear mechanism and when it’s triggered they can become unpredictable,” Milner said.

The Department of Fish &Wildlife recommends observing river otters from a distance, preferably a bridge or pier above a known eating area. People should not attempt to interact with an otter, and mother otters can be especially aggressive, according to the state.

Milner said it is unclear if the otter involved in Thursday’s attack was a mother. With no den nearby, she said it’s possible, but unlikely.

Signs are being posted around Lake Connor Park and along the river where the attack happened, Myers said. They warn people to use caution or stay away.

“We’re doing our best to keep people out of there and keep them safe,” he said. “We will remain aggressive to try and locate this animal and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439, kbray@heraldnet.com

More in Local News

Bicycle tour raises money for dialysis patients

Volunteers also shared health information and put together care packages for homeless women.

Elderly couple escape serious injuries in crash with train

The driver drove down tracks instead of a road, hitting a slow-moving train near Stanwood.

Boeing reaches out to schools

Company employees helped Everett students at recent reading and Manufacturing Day events.

5-vehicle collision sends school bus into ditch; no injuries

No students were hurt when a school bus crashed into… Continue reading

Fire crew returns early from wildfires in Northern California

Four Everett firefighters returned from battling California wildfires late Thursday… Continue reading

Theft lands former insurance salesman 50 days in jail

A former insurance salesman is expected to report to jail… Continue reading

Flooding still a concern on Snohomish River

Flood warning in effect until Monday afternoon for Monroe and Tuesday morning for Snohomish.

Expect river levels to keep rising, though sun is on the way

Some could crest above minor and moderate flood levels.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Most Read