A Victoria veterinary hospital is warning owners of water-loving dogs to keep their pets on a short leash if otters are nearby, after a peaceful walk along the shoreline on Tuesday quickly turned into a harrowing adventure for Goldie, a golden retriever mix.
Dr. Claudia Campbell’s dog was being walked along the Dallas Road shoreline and decided it was a great day for a swim. Having spotted an otter swimming close by, Goldie she set out to investigate. The otter was having none of it, and as the dog swam closer she was set upon not only by the first otter, but two others.
By the time the dog walker made his way into the waist deep water to rescue Goldie, the otters had latched on and were dragging the hapless 60-pound canine under the water.
“This sort of thing is far more common than people realize,” explained Brian Emery, office manager at Kindred Spirits Veterinary Hospital, where the dog was taken for treatment.
”We live in an area where there is a lot of wildlife and, when cornered or threatened, that wildlife will turn on whatever they perceive as a threat and stand their ground. The good news is that Goldie is fine, and I suspect the otters are fine, as is the dog-walker … he was cold and wet, but fine.”
Emery reported that, while Goldie had definitely suffered some superficial bites, it was likely her thick coat of fur that saved her from serious injury.
The otters, it seems, were in their element and took advantage. “They latched onto her on her back end, well away from the “bitey part” of her body. They really are very smart,” Emery said, chuckling.
The encounter serves as a cautionary tale for dog owners who have their pets off-leash in areas where wildlife may be present.
“Dogs are coming into contact with, not only otters, but creatures like raccoons, who are very self-respecting animals who will tend to try to move away, but if cornered will defend their territory,” Emery noted.
The Capital Regional District website says river otters, a relative of the weasel family, are relatively common along the Victoria waterfront and while they appear playful, they may attack if threatened.
Deer can also present a risk to off-leash dogs, Emery said, particularly in spring when fawns are present, as adult deer will defend their offspring if they see a dog as a threat.
His advice for dog owners is to take a few moments to scan an area for wildlife before allowing their pets to roam off leash. And if wildlife appears, it’s always a good idea to leash your canine friend and wait for the potential threat to pass.
– with files from the Canadian Press