Otter attacks boy on Big Hole River

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By Duncan Adams

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BUTTE, Montana (Montana Standard– Trace Knighten, 12, of Butte, sat with her hands bandaged and made a statement to a game warden about the wildlife attack Knighten suffered along the Big Hole River on Friday.

It wasn’t the average mayhem.

The animal involved in the attack is known for its playfulness, aquatic acrobatics, and seemingly elegant and carefree antics.

Trace Knighten was attacked by an otter.

He and a cousin were floating down the river on inner tubes and were about half a mile upstream from the power plant’s fishing access site when they spotted several otters downstream.

The boys tried to avoid the otters but one approached and attacked Knighten.

“It bit his ankle, head, arms and hands,” said Steve Knighten, the boy’s father.

“He was missing pieces of his arm. He’s got stitches and staples, but he’s fine, ”Steve Knighten said Monday.

“He rides a bike,” he says.

Shane Yaskus, a game ranger for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, took the statement from Trace Knighten.

FWP issued a press release on Monday.

“Although otter attacks are rare, otters can protect their young,” the agency observed. “They give birth to their young in April and can be seen later with their young in the water during the summer.”

Otters can also protect food resources, especially when resources are scarce.

The Big Hole River has low flow and FWP said “low water levels can bring recreationists closer to aquatic life.”

Steve Knighten was waiting downstream on Friday for the boys to finish their float. After Trace’s bloody arrival, it turned out that a person camping nearby was a doctor who was able to provide first aid before Trace was taken to the emergency room at St. James Healthcare.

Steve Knighten said Trace will float the Big Hole again.

“Just not that stretch,” he laughed. “I had never heard of an otter attacking someone. Of all the things to get manhandled by.

As a precaution, Trace will follow rabies prevention protocol, his father said.

At the hospital, a nurse offered Trace popsicle ice cream.

He said he was really good with it, as long as it wasn’t an Otter Pop.

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