Beaver alert!

Bit­ings, ra­bid an­im­al lead to mes­sage of cau­tion for Pennypack Park users.

A large — and ra­bid -— beaver last week bit a man and a wo­man who were fish­ing in the Pennypack Creek. The ro­dent later bit a child.

Jerry Czech, a wild­life con­ser­va­tion of­ficer for the Pennsylvania Game Com­mis­sion, killed the big beaver after it was cap­tured by a park ranger, ac­cord­ing to game com­mis­sion spokes­man Jerry Feas­er. The an­im­al’s car­cass was tested for ra­bies and was found to be ra­bid.

On June 1, ac­cord­ing to Feas­er,  a large beaver bit a wo­man on her leg while she and her hus­band were fish­ing on the Pennypack near Bustleton Av­en­ue. The an­im­al bit her hus­band in both arms and his chest when he tried to help his wife.

On June 2, a small child was bit­ten by a beaver near Roosevelt Boulevard, Feas­er  aid in a news re­lease, adding a Fair­mount Park ranger had cap­tured a beaver 500 yards from where the child was bit­ten. Czech went to the scene and killed the an­im­al.

Even be­fore Czech was sure the beaver was ra­bid, he star­ted look­ing for oth­er beavers and warned people to stay away from the creek.

“While we are at­tempt­ing to search the area for oth­er an­im­als that may be in­fec­ted, we are ask­ing people to not enter the area along Pennypack Creek un­til fur­ther no­tice.”

In late April, a ra­bid beaver was found in the White Clay Creek area of Chester County. In that in­cid­ent, a loc­al fish­er­man heard a splash be­hind him and turned to see a beaver swim­ming to­ward him. The beaver bit the man and came at him again. After a struggle, the fish­er­man drowned the beaver. The an­im­al was found to be ra­bid.

The game com­mis­sion will not re­lease vic­tim iden­tit­ies due to med­ic­al con­fid­en­ti­al­ity laws. 

Ra­bies is a vir­al dis­ease af­fect­ing the nervous sys­tem. It is usu­ally trans­mit­ted to hu­mans through the bite of an in­fec­ted an­im­al. Hun­dreds of an­im­als every year are found to be ra­bid in Pennsylvania. The ma­jor­ity of the an­im­als are rac­coons. Beavers with ra­bies are al­most un­heard of.

If any hu­man con­tact oc­curs in the area with beavers or oth­er mam­mals, once med­ic­al care has been ad­min­istered, a re­port should be made to the Game Com­mis­sion’s South­east Re­gion Of­fice (610-926-3136).

In March, the North­east Times pub­lished a story about beavers in Pennypack Park.

In­ter­viewed for that story, Czech said beaver sight­ings are rare be­cause the an­im­als are shy, noc­turn­al and don’t stray far from wa­ter.

Still, there are signs that beavers live along the Pennypack Creek. Young trees that look like something has been gnaw­ing at them, were, in­deed, chewed by beavers. Sticks that seemed piled up near the creek’s banks were put there by beavers. These marks of beavers’ hab­it­a­tion were easi­er to spot in the winter when trees and un­der­growth were bare. 

The beavers hanging out in Phil­adelphia and nearby sub­urbs are called “bank beavers,” Czech said earli­er this year. “They’re liv­ing in the (creek) bank right now …  They have holes, and they go in the banks and that’s sort of like their lodges.” ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

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