Monday, October 20, 2014

Otter Attack at the Pond

By Bob Ralph

My pond and my dogs bring me so much joy.  I put out nest boxes and have raised several broods of wood ducks on the pond.  I love watching the ducklings grow and the adults dive-bomb in and out.  Also, I enjoy raising fish, even catching hoppers for them, so my grandsons can catch them.

Then there are the predators.  Great-horned owls and other aerial predators take many of my young woodies, while kingfishers, great blue herons, and of course otters catch many of my fish.  Even bears enjoy swimming in the pond.

At mid-day on September 20,  I went outside and noticed several otters in the pond.  It was a female with two young who looked to be two years old.  As I walked toward the pond with my dog Ivy, I was surprised the otters didn't take off. Ivy is half black lab and half border collie, and very smart, but she had never encountered otters.  As I circled the pond to get closer the otters swam to the middle.  

Even my yelling and arm-waving did not scare them away.  As I turned to circle back I noticed Ivy swimming out to greet the otters. She looked to be only a little bigger than the otter coming at her.  The mother otter took off to “greet” Ivy but I could tell her real intentions.  

When they met, and to my surprise, Ivy was immediately dragged completely under water.  When they surfaced, Ivy was howling, but only had a second before she was pulled down again.  Again they came up, only to submerge again.  This time Ivy stayed down, so after a few expletives, I waded in.  

About ten feet out, they popped-up right in front of me, with the otter staring right at me.  Acting on adrenalin and instinct, I tried to thump the otter on the head, but it ducked under water.  Out of the corner of my eye I see Ivy making a break for shore, and not seeing the otter I turn to leave, but two steps later I felt a searing pain in my left arm above the elbow.  

At first my brain didn’t make the connection, but then I realized- that little shit bit me!   I’ve had some crazy encounters and wild adventures, but I thought, I’ve never heard of anyone being bitten by an otter.

Soaked and bleeding, I walked back to the house to call “now care” but realized my phone was wet too.  So I drove into Missoula with a very anxious but subdued Ivy. Amazingly, she only had a minor cut on her ear. I’m guessing the otter grabbed the thick fur on her sides to pull her under.

After a tetanus shot and stitches I headed home. 

Amazingly, reading through yahoo news headlines the next day, I read an article about a young boy being attacked by an otter and his grandma rescuing him.   They received over a hundred stitches.  Otters truly are the supreme predator in the water.

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