Be careful, it bites!

Tom PinkI’ve heard of rabid skunks, rabid raccoons, rabid bats, rabid dogs….but rabid beavers? The news has been full of nasty events over the past several months that have involved rabid beavers attacking swimmers and boaters.

An 83-year-old woman was attacked by a rabid beaver last September after she finished swimming in a Virginia lake. Her rescuers had to beat the assailant to death with canoe paddles. A month earlier, a 51-year-old scout leader was attacked by a rabid beaver while swimming in a New York lake. The scouts with him used stones to kill the attacking beaver. And a month before that, two sisters, aged 8 and 11, were both bitten by a rabid beaver, again in Virginia while swimming.

All of those victims were lucky. They survived, although they all had to be treated for rabies.

But an attack in May in Belarus was one for the books. A 60-year-old man stopped his car to pick up a beaver for a photo opportunity and the animal protested by biting him, repeatedly. The beaver nicked an artery in the man’s leg with one of the bites and he bled to death.

There was not much the U.S. victims could do about their attacks. A rabid animal is a rabid animal. But the guy picking up the beaver to get a photo? He’s a perfect example of how people increasingly disconnected from the outdoors get in trouble with wild animals.

The news accounts tried to play up some crazy angles about how the burgeoning beaver population in this part of Belarus is leading to more conflicts with humans as the animals move into populated areas. Beavers certainly do cause problems in populated areas – ask any waterfront homeowner who has woken up to find a tree dropped across his yard. But in this case, this guy would probably still be alive if he hadn’t stopped to try to pick up a wild animal.

The same news accounts that sensationalized the exploding beaver population noted that no one “hunts” or traps beavers there anymore because it’s more like work than play.

Michigan trappers would probably agree – trapping is a lot of work. But a few trappers following their labors of love in Belarus would go a long way toward knocking down the population of city-dwelling, murderous beavers.

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