Beaver kills fisherman in Belarus

'If they think they can't escape, they will attack,' wildlife expert says

North American beaver/Chuck Szmurlo

A 60-year-old fisherman trying to snap a photo of a beaver on a roadside in Belarus is dead after the rodent attacked.

The beaver bit an artery in the man’s leg, which caused him to bleed to death. “The character of the wound was totally shocking,” village doctor Leonty Sulim told media. “We had never run into anything like this before.”

For a time, beaver sightings in Europe were rare. But the rodent population is on the increase because of new restrictions on hunting, which means encounters with people are on the rise. The country’s emergency services says exchanges are becoming more aggressive.

The fisherman had been en route to Shestakovskoye Lake when he encountered the beaver and attempted to grab it, which sparked the attack.

North Americans are no strangers to beaver attacks.

A Virginia woman was bitten in the leg by a rabid beaver while at Lake Barcroft, Virgina, in September 2012.

Three years ago in Red Deer, Alberta, a beaver was put down after killing one dog and harming another at a park.

Wildlife experts say beavers, often fighting for limited habitat and resources, will be aggressive if they perceive a threat. In particular, the North American sub-species is larger and more aggressive than its European counterpart, with adults weighing upward of 20 kilograms.

“North American beavers are much more territorial,” says Bill Abercrombie, president of Animal Damage Control Alberta. “They do a lot more altering of their habitat in terms of dam building and tree cutting. It makes them more aggressive and territorial with each other.”

If a habitat gets overpopulated, less dominant beavers might be banished, which is when they are most vulnerable and likely to attack.

“Their first instinct is to escape,” Abercrombie explains. “If they think they can’t escape they will attack.”

He says their teeth are like chisels. “They can make a very nasty wound.”

Canada’s beaver population is controlled by trappers and natural predators.

Abercrombie says anyone who sees a beaver should leave it alone. “People kind of have their image of animals they get that from Bambi and Disney but they’re not all bouncing around smelling flowers together,” he says.

“It is a fight for survival for them all the time.”

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