The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking the public in Anchorage to be extra careful around rivers, creeks and lakes along the city’s greenbelt. Since the start of the month, a pack of troublesome river otters has attacked people and pets in some of the the most popular outdoor areas, and even injuring a child.
A 9-year-old boy was bitten several times near a pond in East Anchorage, and taken to the emergency room for a rabies shot.
“This week, another woman was bitten while rescuing her dog from a similar group of river otters at University Lake,” a popular dog-walking area, Fish and Game said in a written statement. The same day, there was another dog bitten at a different part of the same lake.
According to Fish and Game, river otter attacks have happened in recent years, but are not commonplace. It’s not clear if the incidents reported this fall are all from the same group of animals. River otters are able to range over large tracts of habitat, both overland and along connected bodies of water.
Last spring, a small cluster of otters was frequently spotted around Westchester Lagoon.
“Because of the risk to public safety, efforts will be made to locate this group of river otters and remove them,” Fish and Game said. “Care will be taken to only remove the animals exhibiting these unusual behaviors.”
The department said that because of the aggressive behavior, relocating the animals would simply shift the threat they pose to a different area, and therefore prove ineffective at keeping the public safe.
If the animals are dispatched, they will be tested for rabies, which might explain their hostile reactions to dogs and humans of late. While it’s possible for otters to carry the disease, Fish and Game said that in recent years there’s been no report of rabid otters in Southcentral Alaska.
Dispatching a small number of nuisance otters would not disrupt other populations distributed across the area, according to the department.
Fish and Game is asking the public to report all otter sightings in Anchorage.