Officials kill otter after rare attack on humans in river near Seattle

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 12, 2014 1:34 PM

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The river otter believed to be responsible for a rare attack on humans that left a Washington state boy and his grandmother badly hurt has been killed, state wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

The large male otter was trapped, captured and euthanized just yards from where the late July attack occurred in the Pilchuck River in Snohomish County, about 36 miles northeast of Seattle, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

The otter pounced on an 8-year-old boy as he swam to a rope swing, and then turned on the child's grandmother as she tried to intervene, officials said. Both were hospitalized with dozens of bite and scratch marks to the face, arms and chest.

The attack appeared unprovoked, according to Captain Alan Myers of the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Aggression is not usual for this species," he said.

In the days after the attack, trappers found several females with pups in the area, and said the responsible animal might have been a mother protecting her brood. However, those females showed no signs of aggression and moved out when dogs came through, Myers said.

The large male otter found Sunday acted aggressively and did not appear scared of dogs or humans, Myers said.

"It appears he was very habituated to humans," he said.

River otters are semiaquatic animals that generally live along river banks and hunt for fish underwater. They are able to hold their breath for about eight minutes. An adult can weigh between 11 and 30 pounds.

A necropsy will be performed to determine whether disease or previous injury played a role in the otter's unusually aggressive behavior, Myers said.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Daniel Wallis)