Otter that attacked Venice man has rabies

7:53 AM, Mar 6, 2010   |    comments
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Venice, Florida - People who live near Venice East Boulevard in Sarasota County enjoy the water and wildlife right outside their doors. Just two weeks ago, Clarke Thacker snapped photos of an otter basking in the sun.

"He rolled around in the grass," says Thacker.

Photo Gallery: Pictures of otter seen by Clarke Thacker

But these cute critters are called wildlife for a reason.

Early this morning, just down the road from Thacker's home, an otter came out of the bushes and attacked an elderly man walking by.

Chris Janssen was one of the people who stopped to help Morrell Denton, 96, who was down and bleeding on the side of the road.

"It was a horrible sight to see," says Janssen, "It looked like he was mauled by a bear. He was missing the tops of his hands."

Listen: Otter attack 911 call

The rescuers used a shovel to drive off the otter, and a deputy later shot and killed it. Test results show the otter had rabies. Experts say that's why it acted so aggressively.

Rabies in otters is not that unusual. Just last month in Sarasota an otter tried to bite some horses and test results for that one also came back positive for rabies.

Janssen got a small bite and he's already receiving a series of rabies vaccine shots.

His arms and hands bandaged, Denton is recovering at his Venice home.

Because of the two recent attacks involving otters, the Sarasota Health Department has issued a rabies alert

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