Rabid otter bites Florida man 41 times while he was feeding birds

Otters are known for their cute, cuddly faces and holding hands as they float atop peaceful seas all wrapped up in kelp blankets. Not this Florida otter.

A rabid otter attacked and bit a Florida man 41 times while the man was feeding birds at a pond near his home, according to the Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control. The otter also attacked a dog on a walk with its family the same day.

Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control responded to the calls on Sept. 20 in Jupiter, on Florida's east coast.

Local residents had helped capture the animal by trapping it under a recycling bin and securing it with cinderblocks before officials arrived, according to the agency's case report. The animal was euthanized and tested positive for rabies.

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'I knew he was rabid'

Joseph Scaglione was feeding the ducks by the canal behind his house in Jupiter on Sept. 20 — as he does twice every day — when he got the shock of his life.

A rabid otter chased the 74-year-old wildlife lover, bit him over 40 times and then latched onto his right hand for five minutes.

Scaglione said he grabbed the otter’s neck with his left hand, and eventually the otter relaxed its jaw just enough for him to free his right hand. Scaglione then grabbed the otter and flung him as far as he could away from his yard — about 12 feet.

“As soon as the otter attacked, I knew he was rabid,” Scaglione told USA TODAY.

“When he landed, he seemed like he was dazed for a second. In that second, I was able to get my wife and I inside,” Scaglione said. “I had a lot of blood on me, so I couldn’t tell how bad the bites were. We just started pouring hydrogen peroxide on the bites. I counted 41 punctures.”

Scaglione then made it to the Jupiter Medical Center emergency department, where he received more than 120 rabies vaccine shots, three or four around each puncture wound. He still is receiving vaccine shots this week in hopes of sparing him from the fatal viral infection that attacks the nervous system.

He said his wounds caught the emergency room’s staff by surprise.

“When I got to the hospital and told them I was bit by an otter, everyone’s first reaction was, ‘What!?’ They couldn’t believe what happened,” Scaglione said.

The otter's rampage through Jupiter, Florida

The otter also attacked a dog in Jupiter, according to a release by the Florida Department of Health.

In video obtained by WPTV, the otter was also playing with an object on someone's back deck.

"It was so cute, we didn't want it to be rabid," a resident told told the station. "But it just looked like there was something wrong. Like it was ill the way it was acting."

Once captured, the animal was baring its teeth and biting the metal of the carrier, according to the case report. The agency said it was approximately 3 years old and weighed 15 pounds.

The agency tested the animal, a process that requires taking a sample of its brain and inspecting it under a microscope. The results came back three days later that the otter had rabies, according to the agency's assistant director, David Walesky.

Rabid otter attacked a man and a dog in Jupiter, Florida on September 20, 2023. It was captured by Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control with the help of local residents.
Rabid otter attacked a man and a dog in Jupiter, Florida on September 20, 2023. It was captured by Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control with the help of local residents.

What is rabies? How to stay safe

Rabies is a disease affecting the central nervous system and is fatal in virtually 100 percent of human cases if left untreated, according to the World Health Organization, which says it kills tens of thousands of people every year, mostly in Asia and Africa.

The Florida Department of Health issued the following advice about the deadly disease:

  • Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.

  • Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals.

  • Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.

  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.

  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.

  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.

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Contributing: Julius Whigham II, Palm Beach Post 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rabid otter bites man 41 times, attacks dog in Jupiter, Florida