Rabid river otter attacks man feeding ducks near Florida pond, wildlife officials say

A man is recovering after he was aggressively attacked by a river otter near a Florida pond, wildlife officials said.

Joseph Scaglione told Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control he was feeding corn to a group of ducks at a pond near his Jupiter home when he turned away from the pond to go back home on Sept. 20, according to an incident report obtained by McClatchy News.

Feeding the ducks was part of his normal routine, he told an animal control officer, but this time as he was leaving he heard all of the ducks runoff or fly away behind him.

He turned back around and saw a river otter walking along the pond’s bank, he told the officer. The otter was approximately 3 years old, according to animal care and control.

Scaglione started backing away from the animal, still facing it as it started to approach him, according to the report.

“I backed up along the fence but when I started to close the gate, it charged, immediately attacking my legs,” the 74-year-old told WPTV.

The otter continued to attack Scaglione for “several minutes,” according to the animal control report. It bit him on the arms and the legs, the report said.

“I started to push it away, and it started to bite my hands,” he told WPTV. “One of the bites I have is on my pinkie and it ripped the nail off the pinkie. [It] looks like the tooth went completely through my finger.”

After the otter attacked Scaglione, wildlife officials said it also attacked a neighbor’s dog, but the neighbor has not been identified. The dog was taken to a veterinarian, according to the report.

The Jupiter Police Department was called and an officer was able to trap the otter under a recycling bin, according to the report. The officer then put two cinder blocks on top of the bin to trap the otter inside, the report said.

The animal control officer lifted the bin and was able to capture the otter, the report said.

The otter attacked the man for “several minutes,” according to an incident report.
The otter attacked the man for “several minutes,” according to an incident report.

The otter was taken to the Florida Department of Health to be tested for rabies, according to a Sept. 25 news release from the department.

To test for rabies, the animal must be euthanized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The otter tested positive for rabies, the health department said.

Scaglione told WPTV he was receiving the necessary shot regimen for rabies exposure and would be seeing a hand surgeon to evaluate his injuries.

“Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm blooded animals and humans if not treated. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization. Appropriate treatment must be started as soon as possible after the exposure to protect an exposed person from the disease,” the Florida Department of Health said in the release.

Due to the nature of the disease, all residents in the area are encouraged to keep a safe distance from wildlife, including feral cats, as a precaution.

The state Department of Health recommends keeping all pets up-to-date on rabies vaccinations, spaying a neutering all pets to prevent stray animals, avoiding wild animals and bringing any stray animal into your home and teaching children not to handle animals they are not familiar with.

Jupiter is about 90 miles north of Miami.

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