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Published July 15 2012

Otter bites Minnesota triathlete 25 times

ANOKA, Minn. – A veteran triathlete had to get rabies shots after she was attacked and bitten 25 times by an otter in a northern Minnesota lake.

Leah Prudhomme, 33, of Anoka, was doing a regular 1.5-mile training swim in Island Lake, 17 miles north of Duluth, on Wednesday evening. As she passed by a bog on the last stretch, she felt something bite her ankle to the bone: an otter. She screamed for help as her father and young children watched from the shore.

Prudhomme sustained 25 bites – some more than 2 inches deep – before her father could rescue her in a boat about seven minutes later.

“It had a gray head, little beaded eyes, and was very agile in the water. ... It would just like latch onto my leg and latch onto my thigh,” Prudhomme said.

At St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, she got shots for rabies and tetanus, plus antibiotics. She got more rabies shots back home in the Twin Cities on Saturday.

The rare attack baffled experts, who surmise the otter had rabies or was a mother protecting its young.

“I’ve never seen or heard of it before,” said Mike Scott, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Duluth. “We’ve got otters everywhere ... lakes, streams. Most times, (swimmers) wouldn’t even know it. Otters usually stay away.”

Prudhomme said she’s thankful she wore her wetsuit, which was shredded in the attack but likely saved her from more extensive injuries.

“My wetsuit tells the tale best, because there’s just claw marks and chunks missing and lots of bites all over the wetsuit,” she said. “It’s pretty much destroyed now.”

Prudhomme also said she still plans to compete in a triathlon on the same lake next Sunday. Fortunately, the swimming portion is set to take place on the other side of the lake.

“I’m scared, but it’s one of those things you don’t want to let get the best of you,” she said. “It’s not like I’ll be bitten by another otter.”


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