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 firstname.lastname@example.org