a) there are more rabid beavers these days,
b) rabid beavers have always been around in these numbers but they have recently acquired a taste for human flesh, or
c) it’s just a fluke,
The latest incident involved a beaver in West Springfield, Virginia that chased after some kids at a nature centre. The kids had been swimming and saw a beaver swimming towards the dock. It’s not that unusual to see beaver’s swimming around in some areas, but like most wildlife, they typically stay away from people. Not this one though. It "leaped out of the water onto the dock, acting aggressively and chasing the children." Police shot the animal and testing confirmed it was rabid. Presumably, no one required post-exposure treatment since there were no bites.
While rabid beavers are rare, this and earlier incidents involving attacks by rabid beavers, otters and other critters highlight some basic principles regarding rabies safety:
- Stay away from wildlife.
- Mammalian wildlife that are acting abnormally, including displaying no fear of humans, should be considered rabid until proven otherwise.
- Any bite by a wild mammal should be considered a potential rabies exposure. The animal should be tested whenever possible and if it can’t be shown that the animal wasn’t rabid, it must be assumed that there was rabies exposure.
Common sense goes a long way toward avoiding rabies exposure, but sometimes it’s not avoidable. Knowing what to do in the event of a bite from a wild and potentially rabid animal is important. The key is involving physicians and public health personnel who understand rabies exposure risks, so that a proper risk assessment can be done and treatment can be started promptly if it’s indicated.
Image: A North American Beaver (Castor canadensis), by Laszlo Ilyes (click image for source)