A harrowing encounter with aggressive otters at Serene Lakes in Placer County has left one man pushing for more stringent wildlife safety measures in the area.
Matt Leffers, a long-time visitor to his family’s cabin by the lake, recently experienced a terrifying otter attack on September 3, 2023, during a routine swim.
“I felt something bite my calf. Within seconds, I was bit again,” Leffers said to KCRA. “And then I started swimming fast but there was the otter, popped up right in front of me and then I was bit again.”
Leffers endured over a dozen bites from two otters, resulting in approximately 40 puncture wounds on his body. He described the situation as life-threatening.
“These things were so aggressive that, literally, I felt like they wanted to kill me. It is by far the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had in my life. Nothing even comes close.”
Leffers’ wife was able to rescue him with a paddleboat and bring him to shore, but the damage had already been done.
This incident isn’t isolated. A previous otter attack on an individual occurred at Serene Lakes in July. A spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife acknowledged these incidents are rare but explained that otters are territorial and may defend their hunting grounds.
A letter from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to the Serene Lakes community suggested managing the lake’s fisheries to reduce the availability of food for otters in swimming areas. They also advised community members avoid swimming for the remainder of the season, alongside increasing educational signage in public areas.
Leffers believes these measures are inadequate.
“Fish and Wildlife has been very wimpy in their response. They need to mitigate the situation before somebody gets killed.”
State wildlife officials plan to confirm the number and ages of otters at Serene Lakes and develop a strategy accordingly to address the situation.