A sign went up in an East Anchorage pocket park announcing that the park is closed due to a “rabid otter on the loose.” The word spread on Facebook.
But state Fish and Game Area Biologist Dave Battle said the otter appears to be healthy. Its problem is that it has grown used to handouts, because people have been feeding it.
“Probably pretty extensive feeding,” he said. “One of the neighbors told me that ‘It didn’t look like it liked chips or bread but it loves those sardines out of the can.’”
Battle doesn’t know who posted the sign, which features the Anchorage municipal logo and mentions the Anchorage Police Department and Fish and Game. Battle hasn’t seen the otter in action himself, but he’s studied videos and interviewed witnesses.
“I know one weekend, from what was described to me, it was like a carnival atmosphere out there,” he said. “It was 30 cars and 50 people around it and this sort of thing, taking pictures.”
He’s seen no indication of rabies and said the otter doesn’t seem aggressive, so he doesn’t plan to take any action yet.
River otters have been known to attack. Last fall, a group went after a 50-pound husky mix at Taku Lake.
Battle said it’s a bad idea to feed any urban wildlife, including otters.
“It just leads to worse and worse behavior. And It can eventually lead to the animal almost getting a sense of entitlement and just running up to people for food,” he said. “Maybe a child holds their hand out to it. The otter is expecting a treat and it bites the hand.”
The park is not closed, though Battle said people should leave the animal alone.