Rampaging beaver was rabid, animal in tree ID'd as raccoon

Updates on two unhappy animal stories from Philadelphia parks.

The beaver that attacked a couple fishing in a park in the Northeast and a child in two incidents this week was found to be rabid. The state Department of Health tested the carcass of the beaver involved and it was found to be positive for the rabies virus.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is urging the public to avoid the waterfront area around Pennypack Creek between Roosevelt Blvd. and Bustleton Ave. because there may be other rabid beavers there. If visitors to the park see a beaver that they think may be acting aggressively to call the Game Commission southeast office at 610-926-3136 or the police.

It is a rarity to find a rabid beaver in Pennsylvania. Health Department reports show that in 2010, 53 percent of animal rabies cases were raccoons followed by skunks (14 percent), cats (14 percent), bats (7 percent) and foxes (6 percent).  Between 350 and 500 animals have been confirmed as rabid in the state each year since 2000.

Rabies is a viral disease affecting the nervous system. It is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is treatable with prompt medical care, but can be fatal to humans. The last human fatality from rabies in Pennsylvania was a 12-year-old Lycoming County boy who died in 1984.

In other wildlife news, the decomposed body of an animal found hanging from a tree Wednesday in a park in the Bridesburg section of the city was a raccoon not a dog as humane officials initially thought. But nonetheless, investigators consider the circumstances of its disposition "disturbing" and are treating it as a cruelty case. 

My colleague Peter Mucha reports:

It was a raccoon, and it was dead before it was hanged in a tree in Bridesburg.

That's the finding of the Pennsylvania SPCA, which initially suspected that animal found Wednesday evening was a dog.

But the carcass had decomposed so much - for at least two days - that closer study was needed, said spokeswoman Wendy A. Marano.

It was spotted near the Delaware River waterfront off the 5600 block of Tacony Street.

"While the circumstances of the animal's final disposition were very disturbing, there are currently no laws regarding the treatment of animal remains if they are already deceased," she said.

"However, the Pennsylvania SPCA is continuing to investigate to determine whether the animal's death was a result of cruelty."

The raccoon was found with a stick in its throat.

Raccoons, dogs and bears are related, but belong to different animal families.

The animal's weight of 25 to 30 pounds was in the right range for a dog, Marano said.

Anyone with information about the case can contact the PSPCA at 215-426-6300.