Man bitten 41 times in rabid otter attack

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 3:01 AM MST
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JUPITER, Fla. (WPBF) - A Florida man is being treated for rabies after he was attacked by an otter while feeding birds just outside of his backyard.

Joseph Scaglione said he was feeding the birds that gather outside of the gate surrounding his backyard late Wednesday morning when suddenly, all the birds took off.

“Looked up – no hawk. Looked back down, and there was a brown head sticking up over the bank of the pond. At first, I didn’t know it was an otter, but then, I realized that’s an otter,” Scaglione said.

Scaglione said he started backing slowly toward his gate, but when he lifted his hand to close it, the otter quickly pounced, making him trip and fall over. The otter bit him on his legs, hands and arms 41 times.

“My pinky is the worst. I have two puncture wounds. I’m not sure if it goes right through or whatever. One is on the corner of where the cuticle was,” Scaglione said.

Scaglione said he was eventually able to toss the otter away and get to safety.

Later that day, the otter crossed paths with a couple, their baby and their dog in the same neighborhood, according to Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control. The otter attacked the family’s dog.

Some residents were able to capture the animal by covering it with a recycling bin.

Capt. David Walesky, the assistant director of the county’s animal control branch, said the otter was confirmed to be rabid Saturday, and it was euthanized.

Scaglione is now being treated for rabies. He’s relieved the otter is gone, and he’s already back doing what he loves: feeding the birds.

“It’s nice back out there. We really enjoy it. We have the ducks and the geese that come all the time. We love them, and they know us. It’s a pleasant thing,” Scaglione said.

This is the first otter with rabies the county animal control has seen since 2010. Walesky said it likely got rabies from an infected raccoon.