This story is excerpted from the MT Lowdown, a weekly newsletter digest containing original reporting and analysis published every Friday

Three floaters’ run-in last week with one, or possibly two, aggressive otters on the Jefferson River resulted in a 911 call and a helicopter-assisted medical evacuation.

The women had been floating the Jefferson River on inner tubes Aug. 2, when they were approached and attacked. The women exited the river near Sappington Bridge, south of Three Forks, and called 911 to report their injuries. One was taken to Bozeman Health via helicopter due to the seriousness of bites to her hands and face. The other two were treated at the scene by first responders including the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson Valley EMS, Jefferson Valley Search and Rescue, Whitehall Fire and the Montana Highway Patrol. A local landowner also assisted.

“While attacks from otters are rare, otters can be protective of themselves and their young, especially at close distances,” a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks release said about the incident.

The release also included a natural history primer on the animals. Otters are members of the weasel family that give birth in April and can be seen with their young during the summertime. They may be protective of food resources, especially when those resources are scarce, according to FWP.

FWP staff posted signs at nearby fishing access sites advising recreationists of the otter activity. No further management action is planned, the department said, adding that recreationists are advised to keep their distance from wildlife to avoid potentially dangerous encounters, reduce stress for the animals, and promote healthy wildlife behavior.

“If you are attacked by an otter, fight back, get away and out of the water, and seek medical attention,” FWP wrote.


Amanda Eggert studied print journalism at the University of Montana. Prior to becoming a full-time journalist, Amanda spent four years working with the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. After leaving the Forest Service in 2014, Amanda worked for Outside magazine as an editorial fellow before joining Outlaw Partners’ staff to lead coverage for Explore Big Sky newspaper and contribute writing and editing to Explore Yellowstone and Mountain Outlaw magazines. Prior to joining Montana Free Press’ staff in 2021 Amanda was a freelance writer, researcher and interviewer. In addition to writing...