8-year-old boy, grandmother survive vicious otter attack

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. -- Fish and wildlife officers spent Friday afternoon closing off a swimming hole, setting animal traps, and interviewing people who witnessed an otter attack an 8-year old and his grandmother at a popular local river.

Bryce Moser, of Marysville, and his grandmother, Lelani Grove, were released from the hospital Saturday morning after sustaining injuries in the attack. Grove has "hundreds of stitches" and a significant eye injury, while Moser has nine staples in his head and cuts all over his body.

The attack happened Thursday morning around 11 a.m. along a stretch of the Pilchuck River near Lake Connor Park. Moser was with relatives swimming in the shallow river when the otter attacked.

"I just hear him screaming, 'Help! Get it off of me! Get it off of me!' and he goes underwater," said Moser's mother, Tabitha. "And then he comes up and I see the thing all the way on top of his head."

"(The otter) had him by the back of his head and it was holding him down," added witness Dean Springer, Bryce's great-uncle. "Just the whole body was wrapped around him."

"It hissed at him and tried to go at him again," Springer added.

Moser's grandmother - and other adults - sprang into action.

"It immediately went to the same position on the top of her head and had hands on her eyes and was biting the back of her head," Moser continued. "As I'm hitting it with an umbrella and trying to get it off of her, it's just getting more and more mad."

Adults along the river were finally able to pry the otter off. Moser went to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, and Grove went to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Otter attacks on humans are extremely rare, said Sgt. Jennifer Maurstad with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"It definitely shows the wildlife side of animals," Maurstad said. "If an animal feels trapped or feels like it needs to defend its young, crazy things can happen. That's what it sounds like happened in this event."

A representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was working Friday to set traps for the otter, Maurstad said. The swimming area was closed to the public, with large signs posted to stay out.

"I just want people to know that it can happen. People don't realize that they can be very dangerous," Moser added. "I'm not saying 'don't go to rivers.' Just be aware of your surroundings."