Woman attacked by ‘vicious’ otter: ‘I did not think I was going to make it out of that river’

Aug 12, 2023, 3:27 PM

Jen Royce was one of the three women who were attacked by an otter along the Jefferson River in Mon...

Jen Royce was one of the three women who were attacked by an otter along the Jefferson River in Montana. (Jen Royce)

(Jen Royce)

(CNN) — What started as a fun, relaxing evening of inner tubing down the Jefferson River turned into a traumatic experience for Jen Royce and her two friends after they were attacked by an otter.

All three women received treatment for their injuries, some of which were more serious than others.

Royce recounted the incident in a Facebook post where she called the otter “vicious and relentless” as it left her with more stitches than she could count. CNN has received permission from Royce to use the information in the post.

The three women were in the middle of a wide stretch of the river on Wednesday evening when the otter appeared behind one of them and attacked, Royce explained. “I didn’t even get a chance to get the words, ‘There is an otter behind you,’ out of me before it attacked her,” Royce said.

Royce’s face, arms, ears, hands, legs and ankle were all bit by the otter as it attacked for about five minutes. When Royce attempted to kick the otter off her friends, it continued to attack her elsewhere on her body.

Eventually, the three women managed to get to shore, in different areas, and the otter swam away.

“Without ANY exaggeration, God’s honest truth, I did not think I was going to make it out of that river,” Royce wrote, “I had no clue if my friends were going to make it out. But by the grace of God we did.”

3 women injured in rare otter attack in Montana

Between the three of them, they had one phone and they were able to call 911 using SOS mode, but it was difficult to locate them as they were in such a remote area of the river, which flows through a portion of southwestern Montana, east of Butte.

“I was covered in blood and it just kept pouring out of my face and nose. It was cold. We were wet. It was dark,” Royce said.

A little less than hour later, Royce says they saw the red and blue lights approaching the area, but it was not close enough to them to make contact. One of the women made the tough decision to leave the other two and run more than two miles to meet the rescue team, Royce said.

At that point, Royce says she was “extremely faint” and didn’t know what was happening. She told her friend that she loved her and to watch over her kids as she didn’t think she would wake up if she closed her eyes.

In an attempt to stay awake, Royce says she focused on the weeds in front of her and counted backwards from 99 to refocus her mind and remain calm.

When rescue teams finally reached them, Royce says she was overcome with emotion. “I cannot explain how seeing those lights felt. I was hopeful again. They found us. THEY FOUND US. We weren’t alone anymore,” she said.

Royce was flown to a local hospital by a helicopter while the other two were treated on scene. They were eventually brought to the hospital later for further treatment. All three women received multiple doses of rabies vaccine and were treated.

Royce was stitched up in multiple areas and underwent surgery on her face and ears. “I am lucky, and I am grateful, and I am alive,” she added.

In an updated post, a week after the incident, Royce wrote she has returned home and her wounds are healing well, with no sign of infection so far.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has posted signs at various recreational fishing sites advising people of otter activity in the area.

“While attacks from otters are rare, otters can be protective of themselves and their young, especially at close distances,” Montana FWP said. “They give birth to their young in April and can later be seen with their young in the water during the summer. They may also be protective of food resources, especially when those resources are scarce.”

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Woman attacked by ‘vicious’ otter: ‘I did not think I was going to make it out of that river’