So cute. So adorable. So misunderstood?

Their looks can belie their temperament. Like any wild animal, otters can be aggressive, protective and vicious, with the size and tools to inflict some serious harm to humans. Three women found that out the hard way on a Montana river this week.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks tells us that three women were injured by an otter Wednesday evening while floating on the Jefferson River. They were floating on inner tubes a few miles upstream from Sappington Bridge. They believed they observed at least two otters a short distance away. One them approached and attacked them.

The women got out of the water, and the otter swam away. They called 9-1-1 to report the incident and their injuries, and members of numerous agencies responded.

The otter managed to inflict significant harm to all three women. One of the floaters' injuries were serious enough that she was taken to the hospital via helicopter.

Montana FWP did not suggest that there was anything to indicate that the women were trying to coax or harass the otters. FWP staff posted signs at several fishing access sites in the area advising recreationists of otter activity, and no further management action is planned at this time.

FWP says that while attacks from otters are rare, they can be protective of themselves and their young, especially at close distances. They give birth to their young in April and can be seen with their young in the water during the summer. They may also be protective of food resources, especially when those resources are scarce.

Their advice is to keep a wide distance to help avoid dangerous encounters, reduce stress for wildlife, and promote healthy animal behavior. They also suggest that if you are attacked by an otter, fight back, get away and out of the water, and seek medical attention.

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