One of the three women who was brutally attacked by a river otter in Montana last week has shared graphic photographs of her injuries along with her account of the attack on Facebook. In a detailed post on Aug. 4, Jen Royce tells the story of how she and two friends were attacked by the wild otter while inner tubing on the Jefferson River, how they were rescued, and how she’s recovering from the experience. Royce’s story can also be found on the GoFundMe page, which was created to cover the women’s medical expenses from their injuries.
Royce also took the opportunity to set the record straight, since she says that many social media users have blamed her and the other two victims for provoking the Aug. 3 attack. She and her friends were in the middle of a wide stretch of river at the time, and that they were not trying to get close to the otters. “We didn’t even know the otter/otters were there until we were attacked,” she writes.
It’s unclear how many otters were involved. Royce writes further down in her post that “the otters attacked us” but then repeatedly refers to the attacking otter as “it.” Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks clarified in a press release that multiple otters were observed, but that only one attacked the group. Regardless, Royce describes the one otter that attacked her as “vicious and relentless.”
“It bit my face in several places, both of my ears, my arms, my hands, my legs, my thighs, and my ankle,” Royce writes. “My friends were bit on the hands and on their bottoms.”
She says they all felt “helpless” treading water in the middle of the river. All their tubes had been popped, and she writes that every time she kicked the otter away, it would attack her somewhere else. By the time Royce swam to shore, the three women had gotten separated.
“I was on the south side of the river and had crawled up the hill, one friend was out on the north side by the railroad tracks, and my other dear friend was stuck on a rock still in the river, not able to get out since we didn’t know where the otter/otters went.”
One of the women was able to call 911, and they were rescued by first responders roughly an hour later. While Royce waited, she thought there was a real chance she might never get off the river.
“I was covered in blood, and it just kept pouring out from my face and nose,” she writes. “It was cold. We were wet. It was dark … All we could do was scream and call out to one another.”
Fortunately, they all made it off the Jefferson River that night. Royce had the most severe injuries of the three, and she was life-flighted by helicopter to a hospital in Bozeman.
“I cannot begin to explain the huge relief and the hysterical release of tears knowing we weren’t alone and would soon be on our way out of HELL,” she writes.
At the hospital, Royce received rabies vaccines and had the wounds on her face flushed with saline. Doctors stitched up her ankle, leg, arms, hands, and fingers. She also had surgery on her face and ears.
“I have more stitches in my body than I can count,” Royce writes. “Besides my face, I have puncture wounds to my left ankle, both legs, back of my right thigh, both arms, both hands, and all fingers. My left ear is split in half from the top to the bottom and is being held together with some kind of yellow bandage and stitches on both sides. But I am lucky, and I am grateful, and I am alive.”