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‘Renegade’ otter attacks on Braden River prompt FWC warnings

TAMPA — For Marsha Wikle, it should have been a fairly typical Sunday afternoon on the Braden River in Manatee County, taking in the sights and enjoying an ideal Sunday afternoon while paddling downstream.

Wikle said she was leading a kayaking excursion with "eight to nine people on a very quiet section" of the river when they encountered something familiar to many visiting Florida’s freshwater venues — a river otter meandering through the chilly waters.

What transpired, however, was anything but typical.

The rogue — and possibly rabid — otter attacked a 77-year-old Sarasota woman and came at the kayakers again as they attempted to make their way on shore.

It wasn’t the only attack reported this weekend on the river, which is east of Interstate 75.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a second attack in which two individuals were bitten by an otter on Saturday, two miles from Wikle’s encounter.

The otter also was reported to be chasing boats and acting aggressive, according to an FWC new release.

According to Wikle, Sue Spector is being treated for rabies after the otter scratched and bit Spector’s arm, nose and ear.

"It was very pristine and very nice and I heard someone make a comment that, ‘Oh, there’s an otter.’" Spector told Fox 13. "And then all of a sudden he jumped on the kayak and two seconds later he jumped on me."

During the attack, Wikle said Spector’s kayak flipped, plunging her into the cold river. Wikle had to get out to help Spector and her husband, Marty, who got in the water to help his wife, back into their kayaks.