Kayaker on Otter Attack: 'It Didn't Want to Come Off'

Sue Spector needed stitches after tussle in Florida
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2018 11:15 AM CST
A river otter feeds on a fruit rat near its burrow at Eagle Lake Park in Largo, Fla.   (Douglas R. Clifford/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

(Newser) – Sue Spector thought the sighting of an otter would cap off her "pristine" Sunday morning spent kayaking on Florida's Braden River. The guide leading her group had said to keep an eye out for the swimmers, per the Bradenton Herald. But when one came into view, its reaction was unexpected. "All of a sudden [the otter] jumped on the kayak and two seconds later he jumped on me," 77-year-old Spector tells Fox 13. Hearing her screams, Spector's husband, who was kayaking ahead, flipped his boat. "I was in the water with a paddle, just trying to beat the otter off her back," the 78-year-old says. "It didn't want to come off!" Spector says she also hit the otter with a paddle before her own kayak turned over. After a tussle in the water, the animal released its grip, leaving Spector with bite and scratch marks on her arms and nose, and, according to her guide, an earlobe dangling.

Spector was taken to a hospital, where she received stitches and rabies treatment—a second woman who was scratched also received treatment—but Spector thinks she was lucky. A life jacket protected her back from the otter's claws, and "by some miracle, I don't have any injuries on the top of my head," Spector says, noting the hat she was wearing was left in tatters. Guide Marsha Wikle says she's never witnessed such aggressive behavior in otters, which normally shy away from humans. But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it received a report of two people bitten by an otter a day before the attack on Spector, some 2 miles away. Reports also described an otter chasing boats, per the Herald. FWC officials are searching for the otter and plan to post notices warning visitors to the area. (An otter was killed after attacking a boy and his grandmother.)

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