Earlier this month, a rabid beaver went after a girl while she was swimming in Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia, about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta. According to local news outlet WDUN, the girl’s father interrupted the attack with blunt force, killing the 55-pound beaver—but not before it bit his daughter’s leg.
An official with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR) said it was the biggest beaver he’d ever seen in the Peach State and attributed its aggressive behavior to a rabies infection. “There was nothing to indicate that there were baby beavers in the vicinity that were being protected, or that the beaver was sick, or whether it was just an otherwise angry beaver,” Lt. Judd Smith of GDNR told WSB-TV.
Rabies is more common in raccoons, but it’s not unheard of in beavers. The attacking animal in Georgia was most likely infected by another critter in the area, where warning signs are now posted.
The CDC says the virus can take days to months to activate in its host and induces bouts of delirium and hallucinations before eventually leading to death. “Once that rabies virus gets into the brain of the animal, in this case a beaver, they just act crazy,” GDNR supervisor Don McGowan told WSB-TV.
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Beavers have long, sharp incisors that grow continually throughout their lifetimes. They’re not know for being aggressive toward humans, but attacks can occur in rare circumstances, usually if a beaver has rabies or feels that its young or its lodge is being threatened. In September 2021, a 73-year-old man was attacked by a beaver while swimming in a Massachusetts pond. That beaver nearly killed the elderly swimmer, tearing chunks of flesh from his arms and legs and lacerating multiple tendons in his hands.