Otters on the attack

Fish and Game officials report incidents at Priest Lake

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River otter attacks at Priest Lake are no laughing matter, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

SANDPOINT - River otters cut a cuddly image when they cavort in and around the water, but recent attacks at Priest Lake serve as a reminder that the predators are pretty adept at harming people.

"It's not something you'd want to have mad at you," said Chip Corsi, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Panhandle region supervisor. "They're not real big, but they're fast and they're pretty capable at using the tools they have."

Fish and Game conservation in Sandpoint officers posted a message on their Facebook page on Tuesday warning that the semiaquatic mammals have been biting and terrorizing beachgoers at Kalispell Bay.

"This may seem funny until you have to get rabies shots and stitches. We have been trying to remove the offending critters with no luck. Please be alert when you are in the water," the post reads.

Corsi said he has seen otters warily eye him from the protection of cover, but also swim close by as though he wasn't even there.

However, attacks are known to happen if people get between an otter and their pups or if they simply get too close.

"Just like a lot of wild animals, especially wild animals with their young, you give a wide-enough berth that they don't feel compromised or threatened. If you see a wild animal that's acting aggressively, you want to try and back yourself out of that," said Corsi.

Corsi said troublesome otters are targeted for relocation, a process that's not without its own perils. Some time ago, Fish and Game employees were trapping ducks so they could be banded when an otter began treating the trap as a personal buffet.

"The otter was eating the ducks before we could band them," he said.

The otter was trapped and released at another location.

"She had it in a trap and released it. It went about 30 yards out, turned around and made a beeline right back for her and chewed her leg up," Corsi said.

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