Otters are notoriously cute animals… until they attack your Labradoodle and pull her under the water. Such is the behavior of some decidedly not cute Alaskan otters, who may possibly be afflicted with rabies.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has alerted Anchorage residents to watch out for aggressive river otters who have recently attacked people and pets around local lakes and rivers. The attacks have happened at different locations, but because river otters can travel distances through interconnected waterways or over land, the same group of otters might be responsible for the attacks.
Are the otters rabid? Officials don’t know. No cases of rabies in southcentral Alaska river otters have been reported in years. However, rabies is one possible explanation for this unusual behavior. Officials want to catch this unruly band and put an end to their antics. Permanently. Relocation is not an option, as officials figure they’d continue their attacks in another setting.
So far, otters have attacked at least two people — a child and a woman rescuing her dog were both bitten — and two dogs.
“They made a beeline through the water,” said Carol Stratton, whose Labradoodle was attacked by otters, as reported by news station KTUU. “I called for [my dog] and bam! They pulled her under at least twice. It was horrifying.”
Otter aggression, though rare, is not unprecedented. In October 2019, four otters charged a 50-pound husky mix at another Anchorage lake, pulling it under the surface and biting it. The dog’s owner jumped in to fight off the otters.
Despite the rabies rumors, it seems unlikely. We probably would have heard about the disease being passed on to the humans or dogs the otters bit. Instead, the problem probably comes down to cute privilege, which makes people feed otters, and otters thus expect more handouts.
“It just leads to worse and worse behavior,” said Dave Battle, Fish and Game Area Biologist to Alaska Public Media after an otter attack last year. “And it can eventually lead to the animal almost getting a sense of entitlement and just running up to people for food. Maybe a child holds their hand out to it. The otter is expecting a treat and it bites the hand.”
Lead image via Pexels