KALAMA, Wash. – River otters may be cute to some, but they are more than ready to get mean, especially if they think someone is threatening their young.
Kierra Clark, 13, may have accidentally gotten between a mother otter and her babies while playing in the Kalama River on Wednesday. The river otter attacked and began biting her leg.
“At first it felt like somebody was just, like, grabbing onto my leg with their nails, and then it felt like somebody was like stabbing me kind of,” said Clark. “It was probably one of the scariest things ever.”
She caught a glimpse of the otter’s eyes popping out of the water. She says she can’t forget those teeth.
“They were, like, sharp and long,” she said.
Clark’s grandfather and a neighbor pulled her out of the water while her grandmother watched in horror.
“I could see she had blood streaming down her leg,” said Clark’s grandmother, Arlita Schlecht. “(It was like) a scene out of ‘Jaws.’”
Neighbors who’ve lived along the river for six decades said they’ve never seen anything like it.
“Then all of the sudden I see it coming right after her, and thought ‘Oh she’s not playing,’” said Fred Palmer, who witnessed the attack.
Craig Bartlett of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says many animals have newborn babies this time of year and can be protective and aggressive. He says river otter attacks are unusual but not unheard of, especially this time of year.
“I didn’t really know what was in the water at first, so that was like the worst thing ever because that’s like my biggest fear is to be attacked in the water,” said Clark.
Clark went to the hospital with bite marks and scratches. She got a tetanus shot, but she expects to be fine. She said she plans to go swimming again when she heals.
“I think the mother was just protecting what she thought was a threat to her babies,” said Clark’s grandfather, Bob Schlecht. “I’ve never heard of it before. It’s probably one in a million.”
Clark’s grandmother wrote a reminder on her kitchen chalkboard that said “You otter be careful when swimming.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.