A beaver suspected of carrying rabies attacked a paddle boarder on Beaver Lake on Friday, inflicting multiple lacerations.
"I saw a big splash, but I didn't see what the splash was from," said Betsy Bent, 67, who has used Beaver Lake for 22 years. "It came up under my board and knocked my board over, and then it latched onto my leg and wouldn't let go. I didn't know what it was at that time. I didn't think there was any 'Jaws' in Beaver Lake."
Once Bent fell in the water, the beaver kept attacking.
"I was yelling, 'Help, I'm being bitten!'" she said. " A very nice fisherman was talking to me and motioning me to come over, and then it turned around and attacked me again and latched onto my hand. Then it came around a third time and latched onto my other hand."
The angler helped beat the beaver off her, and brought Bent to shore. She was transported to Mission Hospital for care of multiple lacerations.
"Beavers chew on logs, so I've got some pretty good lacerations and staples and stitches," Bent said.
She also had to begin the rabies shot protocol, which requires multiple shots over several days.
The beaver was to be tested Monday for rabies, a serious viral disease often transmitted through animal bites. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes, according to the CDC's website.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The shots prevent the disease from progressing.
An Asheville Police Department's Animal Control officer helped the Beaver Lake warden catch the animal after the incident, which was reported at 3:24 p.m.
"On Saturday, July 9, APD Animal Services was called by the Beaver Lake Game Warden to assist in impounding a beaver," department spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said. "The beaver was impounded and transported to the Western Veterinary Diagnostic Lab for testing at the state lab in Raleigh. Further testing is scheduled for today, July 11."
Mike Carraway, a wildlife biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said it is unusual for beavers to attack humans.
"It’s pretty rare, but it has happened before and it has happened in North Carolina before," Carraway said. "In a situation like that, you want to treat it like it is rabies."
Bent said she Googled beaver attacks and found that the animals can be aggressive when defending their dams or young, and continued development has encroached on their territory.
Bent, who retired from Mission as director of senior services, said the series of shots is not as bad as the older routine, which involved more than a dozen shots in the abdomen. She did receive three shots the first day, has a followup shot Monday and will need shots on the seventh and 14 days after the attack.
Insurance will cover most of the cost, she said.
A frequent lake user, Bent said she's never fallen off her paddle board before this incident. She also does not want people to get a bad impression of the popular north Asheville lake.
"We've lived just up the road for 22 years," Bent said. "It's a wonderful lake. This is just a bizarre accident. We’ll be back again."