Conservation office: otter attacks rare in British Columbia

Conservation Officer Service supervisor assists Greeny Lake investigation

Conservation Officer Len Butler supervises the Williams Lake office, and was called to 100 Mile House on Aug. 1, shortly after a woman was attacked and bitten repeatedly by an otter in Greeny Lake.

Butler says COs were notified around 1 p.m. that a woman swimming in Greeny Lake around 11:50 a.m. had been bitten by otters.

“[100 Mile House CO Colin Kravontka] went to the hospital, interviewed the lady, who definitely had quite a few bites. It caught us off guard, no question about that.”

Butler explains he then met Kravontka mid-afternoon at Greeny Lake to try to get a better view of what was going on with the otters.

“We did not see the otters … we didn’t find their den or anything like that. We spoke to the locals on the docks, and it’s such a common occurrence to see the otters out there.”

The attack was “quite a surprise” to everyone who heard about it, he notes.

While it is a highly unusual incident in British Columbia, Butler notes otter bites have been reported on Vancouver Island.

“I did make some calls … it seems to be a territorial thing.”

His “best guess” is the otters were protecting their pups, but as none were found, he adds it may have been a territorial defence of the lake’s “very high” minnow population.

“We can’t give you an explanation of why they did this, but it’s got to be a territorial thing.

“I think she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the otters obviously felt threatened.

Butler says the COs asked the lake locals what they thought should be done.

“None of them wanted the otters destroyed, to which we said fine.”

The COs directed the regular lake users to swim with a spotter, and then spoke again to the injured woman, who indicated she was unsure what might have prompted the attack.

“We’re glad to see that she was in good shape, and everyone seemed satisfied that this was a very one-off situation.”

He notes eliminating otters is a different situation than dealing with predators like bears.

“If you trap, will you get the right otters? There are a lot of problems with this.”

The locals were very helpful to the investigating COs, he adds, especially Greeny Lake fire chief Ken Gisby, who enabled them to avoid launching their large boat.

“He allowed us to use his boat, and we greatly appreciate his help.”

100 Mile House Free Press