POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Lakeland family will always remember the morning an otter attacked.
“I think life is full of surprises and you should just be ready for whatever,” said Casina Ewert, who lives off Pipkin Road in south Lakeland.
Just before dawn Tuesday morning, her 17-year old daughter Gwyn let out their French Bulldog, Scooter. Gwyn panicked when she heard fighting on the back porch.
“I sprinted to the backdoor and I was like ‘Scooter!’ All I saw was like a big, black ball just all over the place. So he stumbled in the door and I tried to shut it as fast as possible but then the otter got stuck,” said Gwyn Ewert.
By this time, the whole house was awake. Casina Ewert burst in and tackled the otter.
“I snatched it by the tail,” said Casina Ewert. “And then I held it up like a prize. And the otter’s going crazy. It was like clawing at me and grabbing on to the backs of the furniture in my house.”
Ewert tossed the otter outside and discovered it had bitten her daughter in the leg.
“After the fact, I lifted up my pant leg. My leg was shaking and there were drips of blood all over the floor,” said Gwyn Ewert.
The Ewerts took a trip to the hospital. Gwyn got a rabies shot that day and a booster shot Friday.
This was her second experience with animal bites. When she was 12, Gwyn Ewert stepped on a stray dog in Nicaragua and the dog bit her.
She learned that day she was allergic to the rabies vaccine.
Doctors took precautions this time around and she did not react negatively.
Scooter had received his rabies shot a few days before the otter attack. He is under quarantine as a precaution.
It is unknown whether the otter has rabies because it has not been caught. His behavior was definitely abnormal.
“Any time an otter’s onshore going for a human, there’s something not right. Usually, they see you, they’re gone,” said Dustin Hooper, an animal trapper and owner of All Creatures Wildlife Control.
Hooper believes the otter population has grown over the years in Polk County.
While otters may look adorable, he says, do not mess with them.
“If you see one up close, they are so beautiful. But they are vicious. Don’t mess with an otter. I’d rather barehand catch a bobcat probably than an otter,” said Hooper.
Casina Ewert realizes tackling an aggressive otter in her home may not have been the smart thing to do, but her motherly instinct took over.
“It’s really not heroic. There actually was no thought process. Just run in, jump on the otter. Yes, that’s what we do here,” she said.
Officials with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were on Shady Lake Lane Friday looking for the otter. They have also set up traps.
FWC has received reports of an aggressive otter attacking another domestic dog as well.
“The FWC is working at this time to increase awareness in the area by notifying residents and visitors of a potentially aggressive otter,” wrote FWC spokesperson Melody Kilborn in a statement. “If you observe any unusual behavior such as a river otter approaching pets or people, acting aggressively or to report a sighting, please contact the FWC at 888-404-3922.”
If you are bitten or scratched by a wild animal, FWC advises you to seek medical help immediately and contact the Florida Department of Health in Polk County at 863-519-8300.