Muskrat Love? Nope, Otter Attack

Fangs pierced Leah Prudhomme’s legs as she swam across the deep, dark rum-colored northern Minnesota lake. It could be anything, she thought — muskrats, beavers, maybe a muskie. But it didn’t let up.

In the middle of Island Lake near Duluth, the triathlete struggled as the animal sunk its needle-sharp teeth into her legs, feet and back, leaving 25 bite marks, some 2 inches deep.

“It just kept coming after me,” said Prudhomme, 33, of Anoka. “You never knew where it was going to bite next.”

In between peppering her with puncture marks, the animal’s head popped up a few feet away. That’s when Prudhomme noticed its distinctive long tapered tail, small beady eyes and gray head. An otter.

Last Wednesday, she was visiting her father on the lake and left with a friend for an eight-mile road run and half-mile swim in preparation for her second Ironman Triathlon. Despite the sunny, 90-degree day, they donned wet suits and goggles over swimsuits before diving into the dark lake.

“You always wonder, ‘oh my gosh what could happen out there,'” she said. “Already, you’re trying to get over your fear of fish or whatnot. You can’t even see your hands below.”

Her friend helped her father get his boat, driving it out to Prudhomme to pull the shaking woman to shore. At St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, doctors cleaned the 25 bite marks and gave her rabies and tetanus shots. Once home in the Twin Cities, Prudhomme received more rabies shots Saturday.

She said she’s thankful she wore the wet suit, which was shredded during the attack, but which likely saved her from more extensive injuries.

Next month, she plans to do the Duluth Triathlon — on the same 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.”

Let’s certainly hope not.


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