River Otters in Yellowstone Park. (Wikimedia Commons)

River Otters in Yellowstone Park. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) urges Anchorage residents to  be alert around local lakes and rivers, where a group of river otters recently attacked people and their  pets.  

On September 1, a child was chased and bitten by a group of four river otters near Dowling and Lake  Otis. This week another woman was bitten while rescuing her dog from a similar group of river otters at  University Lake. A second report of an otter attacking a dog was received on the same day from a  different area of the lake. River otter attacks in Anchorage, while rare, have been reported over the last  several years. River otter groups are typically comprised of either a mother with young, or associated  bachelor males. The group composition of river otters responsible for the recent attacks is unknown.  River otters may travel long distances over land or by utilizing interconnected waterways, and it is  possible that the same group of river otters were responsible for the attacks at both locations. River  otters have not been reported at the site of the September 1 incident since that time. 

Because of the risk to public safety, efforts will be made to locate this group of river otters and remove  them. Care will be taken to only remove the animals exhibiting these unusual behaviors. Due to their  aggressive behavior toward people and pets, it is likely they would continue those actions in any new  environment, making relocation problematic as it would simply move the dangerous behavior to  another location. 

Protecting the public by minimizing dangerous human-wildlife interactions is a priority for ADF&G. River  otters are present in many areas of the Anchorage Municipality and removal of this group of river otters  will not remove the entire population from the area. Any animals lethally removed will be tested for  rabies due to their unusually aggressive behavior. There has not been a reported case of rabies in river  otters in southcentral Alaska in recent years, however the possibility of disease concern remains.  

All river otter sightings in Anchorage, or any wildlife behaving aggressively toward humans, should be  reported to the nearest ADF&G office during regular business hours, or by filing a report online at  http://www.adfg.alaska.gov and clicking the "Report a Wildlife Encounter" button. For immediate public  safety concerns, please call 9-1-1. 

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