A 12-year-old Minneapolis girl is recovering from scratches, bruises and bite marks she got in an attack by an otter while swimming in a western Wisconsin lake on Saturday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Rory Kliewer had been swimming with some friends in Bone Lake near Luck, Wisconsin, when she started climbing a ladder onto a dock. She was part way out of the water when she felt something biting her legs and backside.
At first she thought it was a northern pike that was biting her, but soon realized it was an otter. The animal had climbed onto her back and was biting and clawing her head and face, according to the Minnesota Sporting Journal.
She managed to climb the rest of the way onto the dock and free herself from the otter. But the animal jumped onto the dock and chased the girl all the way to shore.
Rory says she's had some experience running track, which was a good thing. “I never ran so fast in my life,” she told the Journal.
Her friend's mother and the family dog tried to scare the otter away, but the animal stood its ground, snarling and hissing at them. Her friend's father, Pat Hinschberger, who owns the cabin, then rushed over and the group finally was able to shoo the otter back to the water. Hinschberger estimated the otter was about 3-1/2 feet long and weighed about 40 pounds.
Rory was taken to a nearby hospital where she was treated for her injuries and released. The emergency room physician said it was the first time he'd ever treated a patient who'd been hurt in an otter attack, according to the Journal. Rory is getting a series of rabies shots as a precaution.
Rory was wearing swimming goggles and a life jacket at the time, which most likely protected her from more serious injuries, she said.
It's not clear why the otter attacked Rory. She and her friends said they hadn't seen any of them earlier when they were swimming. Hinschberger speculated that perhaps the animal was protecting its young, according to the Pioneer Press.
Otters are generally not dangerous, WCCO reports, but there are occasional reports of otter attacks.
Just a few weeks ago, a woman and her 8-year-old grandson were attacked and severely injured by an otter while swimming in a river in Washington, according to KOMO News in Seattle. And two years ago, two Minnesota women were attacked by otters in separate incidents, according to WCCO.
Rory Kliewer told the Pioneer Press she still feels "pretty shaky" after the attack.
This was her first trip to Bone Lake, and she said she's not interested in returning for a while.
"I'm pretty positive I'll get back to swimming in pools, but I don't ever know if I'll ever get back to swimming in lakes," she told the Pioneer Press.
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Here's more about otters in Minnesota from the Department of Natural Resources.