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Help our girl, Steph!

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Hi, my name is Kristin Laird and I'm fundraising for my friend Stephanie Johnson. On Wednesday, August 2nd Steph and two friends were floating the Jefferson River when a sudden and unprovoked otter attack ensued. All three are local women who are familiar with the outdoors. Little did they know just how vicious otters can be - especially when attacking in deep water.

Steph felt the first bite under the water, below her innertube - which was then popped by teeth. Within seconds she and her friends were fighting off bites, scratches, and attempts to pull them under the water. Steph suffered multiple lacerations on her hands, arms, legs, and backside. Her thumb is shredded and she has stitches in multiple areas.

The medical bills alone are substantial and Steph's counselor has recently stopped accepting her insurance. She needs that support now more than ever.

Here is a partial recount from one of the other women's pages: "We were in the middle of the river at a wide stretch, not near the shore, and we didn’t even know the otter/otters were there until we were attacked.

Around 8:15pm the otters attacked us. It lasted maybe 5 minutes? I really cannot remember. We were in the middle of the river in a deep and wide stretch that went far back from the road and behind the mountains. I saw one otter right behind my friend before it attacked. I didn’t even have a chance to get the words “there is an otter behind you” out of me before it attacked her.

This thing was vicious and relentless. It bit my face in several places, both of my ears, my arms, my hands, my legs, my thighs, and my ankle. My friends were bit on their hands and on their bottoms, and legs. One friend’s thumb was SHREDDED and she has bite marks all over her body as well (Stephanie).

Being in the middle of the river meant I couldn’t reach the bottom with my feet, so I was trying to tread water while fending for my body. The water was definitely where they excelled in their attack and we were helpless. I tried to kick it away but I would just get attacked somewhere else. I tried to hold it back at one point by grabbing its arm to hold it away while trying to swim closer to shore. Once I had my feet under me I was able to fight back better and was eventually able to pull myself out of the river. It swam away after that.

By the time I made it out my friends and I were separated. I was on the south side of the river and had crawled up the hill, one friend was out on the north side by the railroad tracks, and my other dear friend was stuck on a rock still in the river, not able to get out since we didn’t know where the otter/otters went.

We had one phone between the three of us that miraculously made it to shore. In SOS mode my friend was able to contact 911. Because of our location, It proved difficult for them to ping her phone for search and rescue. It felt like it was taking forever for any help to arrive (Turns out it was 53 minutes). I was covered in blood and it just kept pouring out from my face and nose. It was cold. We were wet. It was dark. We had no real “good” visual on eachother due to distance. All we could do was scream and call out to one another. To anyone. But we were just so damn far away. From anything.

Eventually we saw red and blue lights driving down the canyon. There was no way they could see us from our location. My friend who was on the phone had to make the decision to leave us and run more than two miles to the road to try and get them. I know that was not an easy decision for her to make."

Thank goodness they are alive, but the medical bills will make it hard to move on. Steph deserves all the support this community can give her right now!


  • Anonymous
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  • Anonymous
    • $20 
    • 8 mos
    • $25 
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  • Darryl Dargitz
    • $25 
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  • Kase Cannon
    • $100 
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Organizer and beneficiary

Kristin Laird
Bozeman, MT
Stephanie Johnson

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