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Woman brutally attacked by otter while tubing down Montana river

‘I have more stitches in my body than I can count,’ Jen Royce recalled

Kelly Rissman
Monday 14 August 2023 16:31 BST
Jen Royce in the hospital after the otter attack
Jen Royce in the hospital after the otter attack (Jen Royce / Facebook)

A woman was viciously attacked by an otter while she was on a floating trip in Montana’s Jefferson River while celebrating her birthday.

Jen Royce was attacked earlier this month, according to her Facebook post. She and two of her friends “were in the middle of the river in a deep and wide stretch that went far back from the road and behind the mountains,” when she saw an otter behind her friends. The creature attacked her friend and then turned to Ms Royce, according to the social media post.

She called the otter “vicious and relentless.” The attack left her with lacerations in both ears, arms, hands, legs, and one ankle. Her friends were bitten “on the hands and on their bottoms,” Ms Royce wrote, adding that one of her friends’ thumbs was “shredded” by the otter’s assault.

Since Ms Royce and her friends were in a deep part of the water, they couldn’t stand, so she said she was left “trying to tread water while fending for my body.”

She said that she and one friend made it out safely from the water but were separated, as they exited the river where they could. The third was stuck on a rock still in the river, unable to escape, she wrote.

“All we could do was scream and call out to one another. To anyone. But we were just so damn far away. From anything,” Ms Royce wrote. She said eventually they found a signal and were able to call 911, which arrived just under an hour later, as it was difficult to find their locations, given the environment.

One friend, who “had been throwing large rocks in the river the whole time to keep the otters away from my friend who was still in the water,” spotted the flashes of red and blue, and decided to run “more than two miles” to track down the car. That’s when her friend who was in the water ran up the hill, finally escaping the rocky river terrain.

Ms Royce said she was eventually put on a stretcher and lifted into a helicopter, which took her to a hospital in Bozeman. Roughly half an hour later, she added, her friends joined her at the hospital, as they had been treated near the river but were brought in to be further examined.

She said they were given rabies and tetanus shots. Ms Royce explained that her body was stitched up, and surgery on her face was scheduled to start at 4.30am. Although the surgery was supposed to only last two hours, it ended up lasting nearly five hours, she said.

“I have more stitches in my body than I can count. Besides my face, I have puncture wounds to my left ankle, both legs, back of my right thigh, both arms, both hands, and all fingers. My left ear is split in half from the top to the bottom and is being held together with some kind of yellow bandage and stitches on both sides. I have lost almost half of my right ear,” Ms Royce wrote.

“But I am lucky, and I am grateful, and I am alive,” she concluded. Ms Royce also posted photos of her brutal wounds.

Ms Royce’s friend started a GoFundMe page for her, writing, “Obviously this has left her family with taxing medical bills especially as she cannot work while recovering from all of her injuries.” Ms Royce thanked the medical professionals, her friends, family, and donors for their support.

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