Rabid otter forces treatment for 12

FORT WHITE, Fla. -- A rabid otter that went berserk in a state park has forced painful rabies treatment for 12 people who beat the animal to death with clubs and sticks, state wildlife officials said.

The attack took place last Thursday at Ichetucknee Springs State Park, about 35 miles northwest of Gainesville, when a group of teenagers and adults were riding inner tubes down the Ichetucknee River.


The group noticed an otter on the riverbank.

'It jumped into the water, swam out there, and it ended up swimming among them and getting on top of the tubes,' said Columbia County Environmental Health Services director Steve Knight.

At first the tubers thought the otter was cute. But 'it wore out it's welcome,' Knight said, when it started biting the tubes and those riding them.

Finally, a counselor threw the otter out of the river and the rest of the group beat it to death with clubs and sticks.

The otter's head was sent to Jacksonville for analysis and was confirmed to be rabid.

Ten of the group members and two park rangers are being given rabies shots. An adult and three teenagers were bitten, four teenagers were scratched and two adults and the two rangers handled the otter.


'This is pretty rare for otters,' said park manager Azell Nail. 'It's only the fourth case that's been recorded in Florida of an otter having rabies.'

A sign has been posted at the entrance of the park, warning that rabid animals may be in the area. A special watch is being kept on all mammals in the park, which is so popular that its access is limited to 3,000 people a day.

So far there have been no reports of other rabid animals.

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