Alaska Officials On The Hunt For Aggressive Otter Group After Attacks

Three cases of river otters biting people or dogs in Anchorage may have involved the same band of animals.

Wildlife officials in Anchorage, Alaska, have issued a warning about aggressive otters after three reported attacks on humans and pets.

On Friday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game implored the city’s residents to “be alert around local lakes and rivers” after a spate of incidents that may or may not have involved the same otter group:

  • On Sept. 1, a river otter bit 9-year-old Ayden Fernandez at a duck pond in East Anchorage. Ayden’s mother, Tiffany, showed the Anchorage Daily News a video in which one otter broke away from a group and chased her two sons and their friends. The children all ran, but the otter caught up to Ayden, biting him on both legs, his foot and his back as he fell to the ground.

  • This week, a woman had to rescue her dog from what the Fish and Game Department described as a “similar group of river otters” at the city’s University Lake, and wound up getting bitten herself.

  • A river otter bit a different dog at University Lake the same day that the woman was bitten.

The Fish and Game Department’s statement said, “It is possible that the same group of river otters were responsible,” noting that river otters can travel to different areas over both land and water.

River otters.
River otters.
GarysFRP via Getty Images

If found, the otters’ fate is likely grim. The department noted it will have to “remove” them from the area and that relocation would be “problematic” due to their demonstrated dangerous behavior. Any otters killed will also be tested for rabies. (Animals must be dead to be tested for rabies because the test requires brain tissue samples.)

The department noted, however, that officials will be careful only to remove otters exhibiting unusually aggressive behavior.

In November 2019, an otter attacked a dog at Anchorage’s University Lake, though the dog’s owner didn’t get a clear enough glimpse to tell if the aquatic aggressor was an otter or a beaver.

“They made a beeline through the water,” Labradoodle owner Carol Stratton told local news station KTUU at the time. “I called for [my dog] and bam. They pulled her under at least twice. It was horrifying.”

And in October 2019, four otters went after a dog at a different lake in Anchorage, biting and pulling a 50-pound husky mix under the surface, the dog’s owner told Alaska Public Media. Ultimately, the owner had to jump into the water to fight off the otters.