75 year old woman strangles rabid raccoon with her bare hands


By Richmond Times

Cas Overton knew she would not be able to get away from the violent raccoon that attacked her on the leg Saturday afternoon as she walked in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden watching for birds.

So she did what she had to do.

“I tried to shake it off and realized how violent it was,” said Overton, 75, of Henrico County. “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.

“So I threw it to the ground and I strangled it — with both hands. I am a terrific animal lover. It’s the last thing in the world I would have ever wanted to do, but you know self-preservation kicks in, and I guess a primitive part of my brain just went into operation and that was it,” she said Tuesday, recalling the incident.

State laboratory test results reported Tuesday confirmed that the raccoon had rabies.

Overton on Saturday was taken by ambulance to Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital for treatment. She was started on a series of shots to prevent rabies infection. She had the second shot of the series Tuesday.

Health officials are asking anyone who may have been exposed to the raccoon or had their animals exposed to notify the Henrico Health Department at (804) 501-4529 or the Henrico Animal Control Office at (804) 501-5000. Police said that number also can be used to report any abnormal wildlife behavior.

Henrico officials reminded residents to keep pet vaccinations current.

“We know that these types of incidents do occur in our communities and that we’re prepared to respond,” said Dr. Parham Jaberi, Chesterfield Health District director, who was fielding calls about the Henrico case. “Really, it’s an opportunity to share the basic prevention messages to all of our community members and residents every time we have an incident like this.

“If there is a question, seek immediate health care. … The sooner that you receive post-exposure prophylaxis the less the likelihood of developing illness,” Jaberi said, explaining that the treatment is a series of four shots over two weeks.

At Lewis Ginter, officials have posted signs alerting visitors to be alert to any unusual animal behavior. Beth Monroe, spokeswoman for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, said the area where Overton was walking is a more naturalist, wooded area with trails, closer to Lakeside Avenue.

“Visitor safety is our first priority. We have posted signs at our front desk. … We encourage people to stay on the main garden path and be alert to suspicious behavior of wildlife,” Monroe said.

She said the path where Overton was walking is closed temporarily.

“We are double checking that pathway,” Monroe said.

Overton said she likes that area of the garden, which is off the beaten path. She thinks the raccoon ran out of a thicket of bamboo.

She said the raccoon got her pants leg and left a tear. She said she was yelling for help.

“When the animal was finally still, I was able to get over to the Bloemendaal House on the back of the property. It wasn’t far,” she said.

“There was a man at the house who very graciously contacted the main number in the lobby of the reception area of the garden. Within five minutes there was an ambulance there and animal control. They were remarkable,” she said.

Overton, who taught tai chi for 40 years and who is a Feldenkrais practitioner — a method for working with people who have physical concerns — said she believes it was that physical and mental training that enabled her to respond as she did.

“I think that the presence of mind and the focusing on the moment was just with me to manage to do this,” said Overton, who volunteers at the garden. She was there Sunday to thank the people who helped her.

She said the only residual effects are tiredness, which could be from the rabies prevention shots or from the experience of coming down off such an adrenaline rush.

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