A 75-year-old Virginia woman choked a rabid raccoon to death Saturday after the animal attacked her while she was taking a peaceful stroll inside a botanical garden.

Cas Overton, a tai chi instructor, was attacked in a wooded area at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Henrico, Va., after the raccoon emerged from what she believed to be a thicket of bamboo. The animal grabbed a hold of her leg and refused to let go, she said.

"As I moved backward away from it, I grabbed its neck and I knew that I couldn't get away from it. If I ran, it would be faster than I would and would just tear me to pieces," Overton told The Richmond Times-Dispatch. "You know, self-preservation kicks in, and I guess a primitive part of my brain just went into operation and that was it."

Overton told the paper that she managed to escape only after the animal stopped moving. She was treated at an area hospital where she took a series of rabies-prevention shots.

She called herself a "terrific animal-lover" who had few options during the encounter. Officials at the gardens closed down the path where Overton was attacked.