In a scene perhaps more typical of a Fox "When Animals Attack" special than Dartmouth crew practice, a river otter attacked crew coaches April 2 during the varsity heavyweight afternoon practice.
No one was injured, but the incident, which occurred seven miles upstream from the crew boathouse, rattled the nerves of all involved.
The otter, running along the shoreline ice before the attack, jumped into the river to play in the wake of the coach's launch, according to varsity coach Scott Armstrong, who was directing two eight-man boats at the time of the encounter. Volunteer coach Todd Pearson and coxswain Kate Johnson '06 accompanied Armstrong in the launch.
Armstrong turned off the motor to avoid injuring the otter with the propeller. With the engine off, the otter immediately tried to board the boat in the stern. Armstrong then grabbed a wooden paddle and attempted to fend off the animal, pushing the otter back into the water every time its head appeared over the edge of the boat. The otter, however, outmaneuvered Armstrong and climbed into the launch.
"Scott, Todd and I immediately jumped up," said Johnson, who was sitting in the bow of the launch. "The otter was on the far side of one of the benches and was definitely trying to attack Scott."
The otter promptly began to lunge and hiss viciously at the coaches, who frantically used paddles and a megaphone to try to force the animal out of the boat. After a short battle, the two parties reached a standoff – the hissing and glaring otter in the stern of the boat, the coaches armed and ready for action in the middle.