A woman swimming in Island Lake, 17 miles north of Duluth, said she was bitten 25 times by an otter on Saturday night.
Leah Prudhomme, a 33-year-old triathlete from Anoka, said her regular 1.5-mile swim took her to one of the lake's islands and back near a wild, boggy area.
Around 7 p.m., she was on the last stretch, in about 20 feet of water, when she felt something bite her ankle to the bone. She stopped and treaded water to see what it was.
"It had a gray head, little beaded eyes, and was very agile in the water. And it would dive down, come back over to where I am -- I can't see where it's going -- to bite me because the water's so dark, and it would just like latch onto my leg and latch onto my thigh," Prudhomme said.
"And it just started biting my legs over and over and then come back up in the water and then dive back underneath."
Prudhomme backpedaled, screaming for help. Her father and young children rushed to the shore and watched in panic. Seven minutes later, her father rescued her in a boat, she said.
"My wetsuit tells the tale best because there's just claw marks and chunks missing and lots of bites all over the wetsuit," she said. "It's pretty much destroyed now."
At the dock, Prudhomme's 5-year-old son, Kenton, reminded her they had just read the children's book "Utterly Otterly Day" by Mary Casanova, who happens to be Prudhomme's aunt.
"He said kind of humorously, 'Well, you know, Mama, it was probably a mama otter protecting her babies, and they need their mama no matter how big they grow.' And that was kind of a quote from the book," Prudhomme said. "He was very concerned about me but kind of laughing because it's an ironic fact that we read this book and sure enough, I get attacked by an otter, of all things."
Prudhomme said she did not see any otter babies in the water that might suggest the otter was a mother.
At St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth, she got a rabies shot for every bite -- 25 in all, plus tetanus and antibiotic shots.
Prudhomme said the incident made her want to stay out of lakes -- but at her father's urging, she's going to try to conquer that fear July 22 by competing in Duluth's first Buzz Ryan Sprint Triathalon.
"He said he'd pay the entrance fee," she said.
The swimming portion of that event is set to take place on the other side of Island Lake.