A MUM who was the victim of a “vicious and relentless” otter attack has revealed she still sees the beast when she goes to sleep.
Jen Royce also shared that she is so traumatised that she now burns effigies of the creatures that were once her favourite animal.
Jen hit the headlines in August when her face was savaged by a ferocious otter.
She was caught in an unprovoked assault while tubing the Jefferson River in Montana, US, for her 37th birthday with her two friends.
The mum-of-three has revealed she thought she was going to die in the horrific five-minute attack as the creature pounced on her, sinking its teeth into her face and ripping part of her ear off.
She believes it was trying to drown her and feared she would never see her children again.
While her scars are healing, Jen says she will have them for life and is still dealing with the mental impact of the event – having daily panic attacks, claiming she sees the beast every night before she goes to sleep.
Jen says otters were once her favourite animal and owned many trinkets and stuffed animals of the mammal.
But she is now “terrified” of the river creature and has thrown most of her otter memorabilia away.
Jen even attended a burning party with family and friends to torch otter effigies three weeks after the attack.
She and the two friends who escaped the attack were filmed throwing stuffed toy otters into a fire one at a time as they all sipped champagne.
Jen claims social media users “victim blamed” her and accused the trio of “taking selfies” with the animal to prompt the attack.
But she points out that tubing in the Jefferson river is a common summer pastime in Montana.
Jen, from Bozeman in Montana, said: “I think I will always be triggered when I see an otter and I don’t think I am ever going to be okay with them.
“It’s funny because otters were my favourite animal before this happened.
“I had otter trinkets and stuffed animals and it was so strange to go from something I loved so much to something I now fear.
“I’m still having flashbacks of the attack when I fall asleep and these must happen every other night.
“In the flashbacks I see moments of when I was in the water with the otter and I see it lunging at my face and seeing it biting me.
“I’m also suffering from nocturnal panic attacks, which is when I wake up and I’m having a full blown panic attack.
“Something in my subconscious must trigger this.
“Some of my otter items I have kept hold of, even though I want to take a hammer to them, because they hold too much sentimental value.
“But I had a stuffed animal toy and I threw this away as soon as I could [after the attack].
“A good friend of mine also invited us to an otter burning party [a few weeks after the attack].
“We drank some champagne and burned three stuffed otters.”
In Jen’s viral Facebook post, uploaded after the attack, horrifying images show her with part of her right ear bitten off.
Other gruesome snaps show blood dripping down her face where the otter ripped into her skin.
The grocery shop worker, who was attacked while with her friends Stephanie Johnson, 41, and Leila Pavolich, 37, was airlifted to hospital where she underwent a five-hour facial reconstruction surgery.
Jen said: “[Straight after the attack], I didn’t think I was going to survive.
“I was airlifted toby helicopter and as we were waiting for everyone to get there I was starting to lose consciousness and was feeling very faint.
“I felt like I was going to close my eyes and not wake up again. My body had gone into shock.
“[During the attack] the otter was biting my face and my arms and as I was kicking it away it began biting my feet.
“The otter then began to try and push me under the water and drown me.
“When I made it to the shore and I was still fighting the otter, all I could hear was my friend’s screaming and crying and repeating my name Jen over and over.
“I couldn’t make sense of where they were. Water was splashing everywhere and I had blood all over my face so I couldn’t see that well.”
After her operation, Jen was discharged from the hospital the following day, where she spent a month off work and was looked after by her 33-year-old husband Jeff Royce.
Three months on from the attack, the trio are all attending therapy to help with the mental impact of the event and they are still unaware of how many otters they were assaulted by that night.
Jen said: “When I saw my family again after the attack there was an uncontrollable feeling of love and relief.
“I didn’t think I was going to see them again.
“We will all have scars for the rest of our lives but it is definitely the mental scars of the attack that will loom over us.
“We all have different traumas to get over. My trauma was a literal otter attack and they were watching their friend be attacked by the otter.
“In the moment they did everything they could and I want them to know this.
“They were enough and everyone played a part in the rescue.”
Following the savage attack Jen says she will never go out on this stretch of river again but hopes one day she will have the mental strength to go back in a river of some kind.
She said: “On social media people made comments especially when they didn’t know the whole situation.
“I think in the state of Montana, it is very common to hear articles about tourists doing silly things with wildlife in our national parks so I think a lot of people just jumped to the conclusion that we were trying to pet the otters or take photos with them which we were not.
“I think people need to understand that it was a simple case of the wrong place and wrong time.
“We are not denying that we were in their habitat but as a human species we are going to be interacting with nature.
“It is no one’s fault. “I think people around the world also don’t realise that tubing on the rivers is something that people in Montana do as a pastime.
“I will never go back to this stretch of river to float, but I don’t want this attack to define my life and hope I will have the mental strength one day to go back out on a river.”