Leah Prudhomme was swimming in Island Lake when she was attacked by an otter. The triathlete was shocked and bitten at least 25 times before being rescued by her father.
"It had a gray head, little beaded eyes, and was very agile in the water," Prudhomme told UPI.com. "And it would dive down, come back over to where I am- I can't see where it's going- to bite me because the water's so dark, and it would just like latch onto my leg and latch onto my thigh."
Prudhomme first noticed the creature after feeling a bite on her ankle. It was a powerful bite, she noted, one that felt as if it went through to the bone. Prudhomme is no stranger to the dangers of the lake, but this was a new experience for the triathlete.
She had no way to escape from the animal and had to wait until her father arrived in a boat, which left her even more vulnerable to the otter's attack and left her with 25 bites.
"My wetsuit tells the tale best because there's just claw marks and chunks missing, and lots of bites all over the wetsuit," Prudhomme explained.
She was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment and received shots for rabies and tetanus, as well as plenty of antibiotics. Otters carry diseases, like rabies, that can be easily transmitted to humans through open wounds or scratches, noted Francesca Batac and Dr. Melissa Miller of the California Department of Fish and Game.
"When officials ask the public not to touch, harass or feed wildlife, they are trying to protect the health and well-being of both animals and humans. Our training, knowledge and experience help minimize our risk of exposure to zoonotic pathogens. So please enjoy the sea otters from the safe viewing distance of 50 yards on land and 100 yards on water," the pair advise.
Otter attacks are rare, and officials feel that this particular otter may have been protecting pups.
"I've never seen or heard of it before," conservation officer Mike Scott told UPI. "We've got otters everywhere … lakes, streams. Most times, [swimmers] wouldn't even know it. Otters usually stay away."