LAKELAND, Fla. – A family and their dog are recovering after they say an otter entered their home and attacked last week.
Gwyneth Ewert, 17, had just let the family dog, Scooter, outside their house around 5:30 a.m. Feb. 4 when she heard him barking and screeching on the back porch. When she opened the door, Scooter ran inside, and an otter was chasing him.
The teen’s mother, biology teacher Casina Ewert, said she was awakened by her daughter’s screams and rushed to the kitchen.
“She tried to shut the door, and it pushed its way in, hissing and screaming,” Casina Ewert said. The otter turned and bit the teen on the leg and attacked Scooter, a 2-year-old French bulldog, in the living room and dining room.
“There was blood on the floor, the otter was hissing, and my daughter was screaming. It was going to kill my dog and had already bitten my daughter,” Ewert said.
The mother grabbed the otter by its tail and held it up in the air. “And it was thrashing around and trying to bite me,” she said.
She ran to the back door, threw the otter outside and slammed the door.
Ewert said she teaches about otters in biology, but because of the commotion, she didn’t know immediately it was an otter until she had it by its tail.
“That is when I looked at it and realized it was a crazy otter,” she said.
The whole ruckus lasted about three minutes, she said.
“I would do anything to save my kid,” she said.
The immediate concern, she said, was rabies. Her daughter found out she was allergic to the rabies vaccine when she was bitten by a stray dog while doing mission work in Nicaragua. She received a rabies shot then and was hospitalized.
“She goes into anaphylaxis shock, her throat closes and she turns white. The LRMC (Lakeland Regional Medical Center) staff knew of her past reaction, and we took every precaution when giving the vaccine. She did not react (this time),” Ewert said.
Scooter suffered scratches on his face and several lacerations on his face and feet and was treated with a rabies booster. He will be quarantined for three or four months, Ewert said.
‘Ice volcanoes’ erupt on a Lake Michigan beach:Here’s what they look like
‘Never an otter’
Dustin Hooper of All Creatures Wildlife Control said that in all the years he has been trapping wildlife, he has never seen or heard of an otter attack.
“Never an otter,” he said.
“I went out to look for it,” he said. “I was hoping to see it.”
Noting the otter population in Florida is increasing, he said it is not known whether the otter had rabies, but “it is certainly acting like that.”
Otters eat mostly fish, he said, and are known to clean out well-stocked ponds and move on to another lake.
They are fast creatures, he said. When he was riding in a golf cart on the Cleveland Heights Golf Course, an otter racing on the green was going faster than the cart, he said.
“We could not catch up with it. Beautiful animals,” he said.
In an email to The Lakeland Ledger, Bryce Phillippi, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman, said the FWC is investigating the incident, as well as a case in which two domestic dogs encountered a river otter in Lakeland.
An otter was trapped Friday, Phillippi said, and humanely killed.
“While we are confident that the otter that was removed was most likely the otter involved in the incident, we can never be 100% sure,” he said.
One of the two domestic dogs that encountered the river otter was a puppy that had to be euthanized after the incident.
Follow reporter Kathy Leigh Berkowitz on Twitter @kberkowitzthel1.
A Portland woman lost her class ring 47 years ago:It showed up in a forest in Finland
Record-setting bear:700-pound black bear shot in New Jersey sets world record, bowhunting group says