Beaver kills man in Belarus
Incident is latest in series of beaver attacks on humans in the country, as animals make comeback following hunting bans
A beaver has attacked a 60-year-old fisherman in Belarus, slicing an artery and causing him to bleed to death.
It was the latest in a series of beaver attacks on humans in the country, as the rodents, who have razor-sharp teeth, have turned increasingly aggressive after wandering near homes, shops and schools.
“The character of the wound was totally shocking,” said the village doctor Leonty Sulim. “We had never run into anything like this before.”
Once hunted nearly to extinction in Europe, beavers have made a comeback as hunting has been banned or restricted and new populations were introduced.
In Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and Poland, the beaver population has tripled in the past decade to an estimated 80,000, according to wildlife experts. That has caused beavers increasingly to encroach on populated areas.
The Belarusian emergency services said they have received a rash of reports of aggression by beavers, which can weigh up to 30kg (65lbs) and stand about a metre (3ft) high. Officials have responded to some calls by sending out crews to drive away the animals, often by spraying them with water from a fire hose.
The fisherman, who has not been named at the request of his family, was driving with friends toward the Shestakovskoye Lake, west of the capital, Minsk, when he spotted the beaver along the side of the road and stopped the car. As he tried to grab the animal to have his picture taken, it bit him several times. One of the bites cut a major artery in his leg, according to Sulim.
The man’s friends were unable to stem the bleeding, and he was pronounced dead when he arrived at Sulim’s clinic in the village of Ostromechevo.
He is the only person known to have died from a beaver attack in Belarus.
The rise in the number of attacks is attributed partly to spring bringing about more aggressive behaviour in young beavers that are sent away to stake out their own territory. Largely nocturnal, beavers can also become disoriented during the daytime and attack out of fear, according to Viktor Kozlovsky, a wildlife expert.
Kozlovsky said the large beaver population was beginning to cause significant damage to forests and farms. The forestry ministry said it was encouraging the hunting of beavers, once prized for their fur and gland secretions used for medicinal purposes. But since they are such easy targets near dams, says the ministry spokesman Alexander Kozorez, “beaver hunting holds little sporting interest”.
“Hunting them is more like work,” he said.