PHILADELPHIA – Pennsylvania game wardens remained stumped Sunday about a spate of "truly bizarre" rabid beaver attacks in and around Philadelphia.
Three people were bitten by a beaver last week in Pennypack Park in the city's northeastern section before the animal was killed and officials determined it had rabies, according to MyFoxPhilly.
A married couple was fishing on Wednesday when the large beaver bit the woman's leg, then turned on her husband and bit him in both arms and on his chest, the Pennsylvania Game Commission said.
On Thursday, a child was bitten in the same park. A short time later, a park ranger located the beaver nearby. That animal was killed and tested positive for rabies at a Health Department lab. Game wardens are looking through the park for other beavers that could be infected.
Park officials were baffled by the location of the attacks and the fact that the mammal was a beaver -- not a raccoon or skunk.
"It's not that beavers are not susceptible, as all mammals are susceptible, to rabies," said Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser. "But a beaver in Philadelphia, that was just truly bizarre."
Another rabid beaver attacked an angler in late April on White Clay Creek in the Chester County suburbs of Philadelphia. Feaser said the attacks are the only such cases he recalls during 12 years with the commission.
"Our furbearer biologist, when he heard about this, he was just literally blown away," Feaser said.
The state Agriculture Department, which investigates rabies cases, fielded no reports of rabid beavers in 2009 or 2010.
Pennsylvania normally has between 350 and 500 confirmed rabies cases annually. Last year slightly more than half the cases were raccoons, followed in frequency by skunks, cats, bats and foxes. The state's most recent rabies fatality for humans occurred in 1984, when a 12-year-old Lycoming County boy died.
As a precaution, Game Commission officials continue to encourage residents to avoid the Pennypack Creek waterfront area between Bustleton Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard in northeast Philadelphia.
Read more on Philadelphia's beaver battle at MyFoxPhilly.com.