A Boca Ciega Bay couple who recently lost their dog to an otter attack in their backyard hope sharing their story will maybe spare other families the heartache they're feeling, and save other pets' lives.

  • John, Marilyn Frieman's dog, Bucky, killed by otter attack March 31
  • Animal Care Specialist: Otters can be territorial, aggressive
  • Otters possibly more aggressive while protecting den of offspring

John and Marilyn Frieman's home nestled on Boca Ciega Bay is full of memories of their beloved dog, Bucky.

The couple says they had family in town on the night of March 31 when Bucky went outside into the backyard on his own. They heard yelping and Bucky's familiar cry, and found the dog had been attacked by a river otter.

Bucky later died from his injuries.

John Widick, an animal care specialist with Clearwater Marine Aquarium, says that despite their cute and cuddly demeanor, otters have a reputation of being both territorial and aggressive.

"I would say their teeth are about German Shepherd size, when they are more like Scottish Terrier size," he said.

The North American River Otter also has a powerful bite and can carry rabies.

Widick added that many people don't realize that river otters are actually living in many parts of the Tampa Bay area.

"Many people live their entire lives in Florida and never see wild otters, they don't even know that they live here," he said.

The Friemans, who have spent decades in their waterfront home, said they had never seen one, either.

Now they're hoping that others hear their story and keep their pets close by at night.

"I still haven't recovered. I'm still crying all the time," John said.

It's possible that otters are more aggressive this time of year due to the fact they could be protecting a den with babies nearby.