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Not your average mauling: Otter attacks Butte boy on Big Hole River

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Otter attack

Trace Knighten, 12, (center) meets with Shane Yaskus, a game warden for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, to describe the otter attack Friday along the Big Hole River that left him with stitches and staples. His cousin, Matthew Morris, (left) was also on the float when an otter attacked Knighten upstream of the Powerhouse Fishing Access Site. 

Trace Knighten, 12, of Butte sat with bandaged hands and gave a statement to a game warden about the wildlife attack Knighten had suffered Friday along the Big Hole River.

It wasn’t the average mauling.

The animal involved in the attack is known for its playfulness, its aquatic acrobatics and seemingly sleek and carefree frolics.

Trace Knighten was attacked by an otter.

He and a cousin were floating the river on inner tubes and were about a half mile upstream from the Powerhouse Fishing Access Site when they spotted several otters downstream.

The boys tried to avoid the otters but one approached and attacked Knighten.

“It bit his ankle and head and arms and hands,” said Steve Knighten, the boy’s father.

“There were some chunks missing out of his arm. He’s got stitches and staples but he’s fine,” Steve Knighten said Monday.

“He’s out riding his bike,” he said.

Shane Yaskus, a game warden for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, took Trace Knighten’s statement.

FWP issued a press release Monday.

“While attacks from otters are rare, otters can be protective of their young,” the agency observed. “They give birth to their young in April and can later be seen with their young in the water during the summer.”

Otters also can be protective of food resources, especially when resources are scarce.

The Big Hole River’s flow is low and FWP said “low water levels can bring recreationists closer to water dwelling wildlife.”

Steve Knighten was waiting downstream Friday for the boys to finish their float. After Trace’s bloody arrival, it turned out that a person camping nearby was a doctor who was able to provide initial first aid before Trace was taken to the emergency room at St. James Healthcare.

Steve Knighten said Trace surely will float the Big Hole again.

“Just not that stretch,” he said, laughing. “I’d never heard of an otter attacking someone. Of all the things to get mauled by.”

As a precaution, Trace will be going through the rabies prevention protocol, his father said.

At the hospital, a nurse offered Trace a popsicle.

He said he was definitely good with that, as long as it wasn’t an Otter Pop.

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