The child was swimming at the northern end of the lake on private property when the beaver went after her. Using its teeth, which can chew through trees, the semiaquatic rodent took aim and bit her leg. Her protective father quickly took action. He was scratched during the chaos but managed to beat the beaver to death, Buecker said.
She was taken to an emergency room to be treated after the scary encounter. The dead animal was transported to the Georgia Public Health Lab/Virology Section in Decatur, where it tested positive for rabies Tuesday, according to county officials.
Buecker called the father to inform him of the positive test and “everybody seemed to be feeling well,” he said.
“I just spoke to him on the phone and made sure that they were seeking treatment for the rabies shot,” he said. The identify of the child and her dad were not released.
Following the attack, officials said “positive alert signs” will be posted in the area where the rabid beaver was found, but no searches are being conducted by animal control or Georgia Department of Natural Resources personnel.
“No other residents have come forward saying they had contact with the beaver, and there is no reason to believe there are more ‘bad beavers’ on the loose,” Hall County spokesperson Joy Holmes said.
DNR officers responded to the incident and turned the case over to animal control because the girl was bitten, according to spokesman Mark McKinnon. The animal didn’t appear to be provoked.
McKinnon echoed the feelings of Buecker in calling the attack a very uncommon occurrence for beavers, who are known for building watertight dams and providing aquatic habitat for dozens of other species. In the mid-1940s, a restocking program assisted in restoring beaver populations in Georgia.
Unlike skunks, raccoons and bats, beavers are not a rabies vector species, McKinnon said, which can typically carry the virus with no symptoms and spread it to other animals — or even people. While any warm-blooded animal can contract rabies and spread it, rabies vector species have the highest chance to do so.
“Apparently, the beaver in question had contracted it,” he added. “It is not one of the most likely to carry the virus or spread it, but it can.”
If Georgia residents see an animal acting abnormally they should contact animal control or DNR officials immediately, Buecker warned. Pets should also be vaccinated since exposures are typically between wild and domestic animals.
“We have a few wildlife to humans a year, but generally it’s animal to animal,” he added. “So just be mindful of what’s going on and pay attention.”
Anyone who sees something can contact animal services at 770-531-6830 or Hall County dispatch at 770-536-8812. Vaccines are available at the county animal shelter for $10 during working hours Tuesday through Friday in Gainesville.