Otter attacks boy near Echo Lake


KALISPELL, Mont. - A young boy is out of the hospital after being attacked by several otters at Lake of the Woods, near Echo Lake in Flathead County.

The boy suffered several bites to both of his legs. He was treated and released from the hospital yesterday. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is investigating the situation.

It's an animal that may look cute, but it can be dangerous.

"I'm very surprised; I didn't think they could even bite," said Kaydee Jensen, an Echo Lake swimmer.

That's the same reaction that NBC Montana got from most swimmers when they found out about the otter attack.

"It shocks me, actually. I would never guess that would happen," said Echo Lake resident Janelle Neilson.

Neilson has noticed the otters swimming in the lake, but has never seen them as a threat.

"I wouldn't guess that they specifically come to attack the kids. I haven't really thought much about them," Neilson said.

But otters can be dangerous. FWP says that most people underestimate otters because of the way they look.

"They're not something to be ignored or thought of as cute little animals. They're a wild animal, they're a carnivore, they're a member of the weasel family and they can be aggressive," said John Fraley, of FWP.

However, this is not the first time otter attacks have happened. Last year in Echo Lake, otters attacked a dog that was swimming near shore. That dog drowned. Then, in that same month, a woman near Yellowstone got bit, prompting wildlife officials to put up warning signs about "vicious otters."

Just last week a woman and her grandson were attacked by several otters in Washington. They suffered severe injuries and are starting to recover.

These incidents leave swimmers near Echo Lake concerned.

"When they're [the otters] swimming on the side and we're kayaking and my feet are hanging off, I don't want them to bite me," Jensen said.

"I think we'll obviously look out for them maybe a little bit more than we have in the past," Neilson said.

FWP says it may be possible that they have to remove the otter from the area, but that is determined on a case by case basis.

Wildlife officials also say that otters often move around a lot and it might be hard to find the otter that attacked the young boy.