75-year-old woman strangles rabid raccoon at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Posted at 11:31 AM, Mar 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-11 20:04:41-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A woman fought off and killed a rabid raccoon that attacked her Saturday along the Wildside Walk Foot path at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on Lakeside Avenue. Cass Overton, age 75, is a volunteer at Lewis Ginter.

The raccoon ran out of the woods near the path where she was walking and began to scratch and claw her leg. When the raccoon then began to bite her leg, Overton reacted quickly. She grabbed the animal by its neck, threw it to the ground, and then put her knee on its neck until the raccoon stopped breathing. She called the front desk, and they called 911.

She said EMS officials responded quickly and got her to St. Mary's for treatment. She is expected to be okay, but has received six shots so far, with several more to go. She said it's more exhausting than painful.

"The raccoon’s remains were submitted to the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services for testing," said Lt. Eley.

Those test results confirmed the raccoon had rabies. It was Henrico's first confirmed positive rabies case this year. Now the Henrico Health Department has asked anyone who may have been exposed to the raccoon to contact them.

"Our visitors safety is our first priority," said spokeswoman Beth Monroe. She said that  footpath is now closed to visitors, until garden staff members determine that it's safe.

"We're just encouraging people to stay on the main pathways to not feed any wildlife," Monroe said. "And that's a really key thing. That was not the case in this particular instance. But it is never a good idea to feed wildlife."

"Henrico Police Animal Protection reminds everyone to be sure to keep their pets’ rabies vaccinations current to ensure the safety of their pets and our community," Eley said. He asked people to report "abnormal wildlife behavior" to the Henrico Police Non-Emergency Communications Center at (804) 501-5000.

Anyone who may have come in contact with the raccoon was asked to call the Henrico Health Department at 804-501-4529 or the Henrico County Animal Control Office at 804-501-5000.

The Henrico Health District strongly advises that people take the following steps to prevent families and pets from being exposed to rabies:

  • Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies and keep them up to date!
  • Avoid contact with wild animals or stray cats and dogs.
  • Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs.
  • Report stray animals to your local animal control agency.
  • Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home.
  • Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash.
  • If you see ill or injured wildlife, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for advice on how to proceed.

This is a developing story.