A five-year-old Oklahoma boy is recovering after being attacked by a beaver.  Beaver and attack aren’t two words that you usually put together, but in this case the boy went to pet a 60 lb beaver that he saw outside and it proceeded to attack him, taking a "chunk out of his calf" in the process. The beaver was killed with a crowbar.

This is a pretty unusual situation. Beavers aren’t known for attacking people, which should raise some red flags right there. Rabies should be considered in any mammal that acts abnormally. An aggressive act by a species not known for unprovoked attacks would certainly count.

The boy’s mother went to "great lengths" to get the beaver tested for rabies. I’m not sure why great lengths were required since this was a bite from an abnormally-behaving wild animal in a rabies endemic area, but it’s great that she was aware of the problem and acted accordingly. While the outcome was unfortunate for the beaver, the family is lucky that the beaver was killed and available for testing. If it had gotten away, they would have had to assume that it was rabid, meaning the child would need rabies post-exposure treatment. That’s expensive and somewhat unpleasant (two initial shots and 3-4 boosters) but virtually 100% effective at preventing rabies (and since rabies is almost always fatal, it’s a necessary procedure).

This report highlights a two key points:

  • Leave wildlife alone.
  • If you are bitten by a wild animal, make sure rabies is considered. It’s very rare but fatal when it occurs, so you don’t want to take any chances.