A woman who “almost died” when she and two friends were viciously attacked by river otters has revealed her traumatic recovery.
Mum-of-three Jen Royce was with two female friends enjoying drifting on inner tubes on the Jefferson River, in Montana, USA, at around 8.15pm on August 2.
But the peace of their idyllic evening on the water was shattered when according to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks at least one otter swam out to the group and began attacking them.
Mrs Royce and her friends managed to struggle to shore, with all three women suffering wounds to their arms trying to fend off the five-minute-long assault.
As these photographs show, Mrs Royce suffered more shocking injuries to her face, ears and body and was airlifted to hospital after her friends dialled 911.
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Doctors treated Mrs Royce’s wounds and she underwent five hours of surgery to repair the damage inflicted by the otter assailants.
Now Jen is recovering at home in Bozeman, Montana, with her firefighter husband Jeff and their three children after her frightening ordeal, which park authorities described as “not normal”. A GoFundMe page has now been started to help raise funds to support the Royces.
In exclusive messages to Express.co.uk last night, Mrs Royce, who has now had three rabies shots, said she had received tonnes of messages of support from well-wishers around the world.
She said right now she and her friends were concentrating on their recovery and that they all had “different perspectives” from the night.
Mrs Royce added that for one of the group, who saw Mrs Royce being attacked, it was like she had “witnessed her best friend almost die.”
Writing in a statement shared with Express.co.uk, Mrs Royce said: “As for my own personal journey, it has had its ups and downs for sure. It is hard to believe we are almost a full week out now from the incident.
“Coming home went well but the emotional strain on family and close friends is evident.
“The perspectives we all have of this shared experience are as different as we are as individuals, and everyone is doing their best to cope and make sense of this event.
“My wounds are healing very well with no signs of infection. Cleaning and dressing my wounds was taking up to an hour each time, two-three times a day.
“Now we are just applying ointment with minimal bandaging, so the process has sped up quite a bit. The important thing for now is keeping all of my wounds covered in ointment to hopefully keep scarring as minimal as possible. My face is the gooiest mess and it’s driving me crazy.
“I still need help with most things as a majority of wounds are on my hands and fingers. It is very humbling to have to ask for help with simple things that I used to take for granted, like opening a pop can or pill bottle, cutting food, opening envelopes, gripping and turning door handles, and even putting on a seatbelt.”
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Mrs Royce continued explaining the dressing on most of her wounds now were being removed, and that “besides the stitches and sores you wouldn’t be able to tell anything happened”.
She said: “The stitches in my ears and face will dissolve over the next week or so.”
A GoFundMe page has started by well-wishers for the Royce family that has raised nearly £5,000 to help with the recovery.
Posting a note of gratitude on the funding site, Mrs Royce wrote: “My husband and I are at a loss for words. We are beyond overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support by so many of you.
“From those we’ve never met, from those we’ve connected with through Facebook, and from those we’ve already been blessed to know and love.
“I have received HUNDREDS of messages from people across the entire world. London, England. Australia. Canada. Nevada, Florida, California, Maryland, Alaska, Oregon, Tennessee, Kansas, Utah, Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and of course from all over Montana.”
Mrs Royce urged her friends to “keep enjoying the wild” despite the trauma she had been through.
Morgan Jacobsen with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks said Mrs Royce and her party saw two otters before the attack, but it was unclear how many were involved in the incident.
Speaking about aggressive otter behaviour, he told reporters at the time: “It’s just not something you run into very often. Bears do it, moose too and occasionally a deer, but otters? That’s not normal.”
Northern river otters are members of the weasel family and can reach up to 20 pounds (9 kilograms, as heavy as a small dog, and up to 47 inches long (1.2 meters). They primarily eat fish.
Mr Jacobsen said they can use their teeth and claws to bite and scratch, adding: “If folks are attacked by an otter, our recommended response is to fight back, get away and get out of the water.”
Warning signs were posted at access points along the Jefferson River in the area of the attack.
No otters have been seen there since Wednesday and there will be no efforts to catch or remove any of the animals because it’s believed to have been a defensive attack, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks said.
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