The Covington Health Department has confirmed the beaver that attacked a group on the Cowpature River was confirmed to be rabid - according to Travis Nicely, who posted about the incident on Facebook.
Travis states in his public recount of events that he initially spotted the beaver as it approached his group. After failing to climb the rock Travis was on, the beaver turned and began biting another adult member of his group as they attempted to remove a child from the water.
In his online post, Nicely describes trying to beat the beaver away by hand several times, and again with a fishing pole, before getting the swimmers out of the water and onto nearby rocks.
Nicely was able to dispatch the beaver with a handgun after the animal made several more attempts to circle and lunge at the swimmers in his group.
A female adult who sustained bites from the beaver was taken to a local emergency room, where she underwent rabies treatments as a result of the incident.
Travis adds in his post that the beaver’s carcass was turned over to local game wardens, and was subsequently tested for rabies - being confirmed rabid by officials.
In his post, he refers to the aggressive animal as a “zombie beaver” - a fitting description used in other beaver-related attacks to describe the eerie effects the rabies virus has on fur-bearing mammals like beavers.
The Virginia incident is the latest in an over decade-long string of rabid beaver attacks.
The most well-known of which was an incident that took place in Pennsylvania last August - where a man and his seven year old daughter were attacked by a rabid beaver while kayaking in Adams County.
Dan Wherley stated in his own Facebook post that he beat the animal with his kayak paddle, rocks, and a stick, after the beaver went for his daughter as she tried to seek refuge on shore.
"After about 5 more big rocks to the head it swam away a little bit, then came right back. I grabbed a big stick and smacked it on the head 5 times as hard as I could,” he wrote.
The story made international headlines. Pennsylvania Game officials confirmed that the beaver in Dan’s case also tested positive for rabies.
Other non-fatal beaver attacks on humans include the mauling of an 83-year-old woman in Falls Church, Virginia in 2012.
Also in 2012, a beaver attacked a 51-year-old Boy Scout leader in New York - wherein members of the man’s Scout troop killed the rabid animal with rocks.
In 2007, a 14-year-old boy and an adult woman were also attacked by what authorities confirmed was a rabid beaver north of Loch Raven Dam in Towson, Maryland.
In 2016, two people in Connecticut were attacked by a beaver in the Quinebaug River near the Pomfret-Killingly town line, prompting officials to advise boaters and swimmers to stay out of area waters. The beaver in the Quinebaug case was never tested for rabies.
Also in 2016, North Carolina resident Betsy Bent was attacked by a beaver as she was paddle boarding on a lake with her husband. A passing angler helped beat the beaver off her and brought her to shore. Local wardens later trapped and dispatched the animal - which tested positive for rabies.
In both Connecticut and North Carolina’s cases, officials noted great concern over the potential for the virus to spread to other resident beavers on their respective bodies of water.
Attacks aren’t limited to just fresh waterways either - such as the 2014 incident in which a saltwater snorkeler was attacked by a beaver off the coast of Nova Scotia. The snorkeler received five rounds of rabies shots as a precaution - since the offending beaver was never captured or tested.
Rabies is caused by a virus that’s transmitted via the saliva of infected animals. Once symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal, according to the CDC. People who believe they’ve been exposed receive an injection of human immune globulin plus rabies vaccine.
The advanced stages of the virus - which is common in abundant furbearers like raccoons and skunks - includes mentally-debilitating effects that give infected animals a “zombie-like” appearance.
The above mentioned cases of rabid “zombie” beavers add an element of pucker-factor for some - as the potential for an irrational fifty-pound sub-aquatic rat lurking just beneath the water’s surface tends to elicit fears of Jaws-like proportions.
If it’s any consolation, the odds of coming across a rabid beaver still seem to be quite rare. While I managed to compile quite a surprising list of beaver attacks, the list still manages to fit within the confines of a brief blog post.
In other words, the “zombie beaver apocalypse” still seems to be quite a ways out.
For now, America’s zombie-beaver fears will have to be played out vicariously in horror-comedy films like Zombeavers - which takes evil buck-toothed water-rats to the next level.
Fictional movies aside, I was only able to uncover one fatal beaver attack - hailing from the Eastern European country of Belarus. A 60-year-old fisherman died in 2013 after a beaver bit into an artery in his leg.
The incident was described by news outlets as "the latest in a series of beaver attacks on humans in the country", where local officials assert a growing beaver population has led to increased aggressive interactions with people.
While the events mentioned above are rare, the question remains whether there’s a trend with America’s east-coast beavers and the rabies virus.
Being a density-dependent disease, does the influx in beaver/rabies cases highlight a species that is reaching or exceeded natural carrying capacity? Does it speak for the increased density of human presence on historically rural areas accounting for more human/beaver contact instances? Are rabid beavers becoming more prevalent or are we just becoming more aware of rabid beavers?
While far from Hollywood’s “Zombeaver” theatrics, it’s hard not to wonder if America’s east coast rabid “zombie beavers” are nature’s way of indicating a potentially bigger issue.