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Massachusetts man survives harrowing beaver attack

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    Staff Photo/DOMENIC POLI Mark "Pres" Pieraccini, 73, sits in front of his Greenfield home. He survived a vicious attack from a presumably rabid beaver on Sept. 6. His injuries and story will be chronicled in a wilderness and environmental medicine journal. Greenfield Recorder — DOMENIC POLI (left); Courtesy (right)

Greenfield Recorder
Published: 9/24/2021 9:41:35 PM
Modified: 9/24/2021 9:41:41 PM

GREENFIELD, Mass. — A Massachusetts man will soon find his story in a wilderness and environmental medical journal after surviving a gruesome attack from a presumably rabid beaver while swimming in a remote pond two weeks ago.

Mark “Pres” Pieraccini, 73, nearly drowned and required stitches after repeatedly fighting off the semiaquatic rodent as he made his way back to shore. The Sept. 6 attack left Pieraccini with lacerations from head to toe, chunks of flesh torn from his arms and legs, a fractured finger on his right hand and a lacerated tendon on his left index finger.

“I still can’t feel my thumb,” said Pieraccini, who also suffered significant blood loss.

Nurse practitioner Benjamin Woodard treated Pieraccini at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Mass., with assistance from nurse Samantha Keith.

“It was pretty wild,” Woodard said. “I’ve seen a lot of animal bites, but I have never seen a beaver attack.”

Pieraccini’s wounds had to be thoroughly cleaned and while some were stitched up, others were left open to help avoid infection, Woodard explained. Pieraccini said he received five rounds of shots to ward off rabies.

Woodard, who is board-certified in emergency practice, also specializes in wilderness medicine, the provision pertaining to health care administered in the backcountry, “whether that’s roadside or pondside.” He said wilderness medicine typically concerns atypical injuries.

Woodard is working on an article to be published in a wilderness and environmental medical journal. Pieraccini said he gave his blessing to Woodard’s endeavor in hopes that his story — and the experience Woodard acquired while treating him — will help someone in the future.

“This isn’t a story about a crazy beaver,” Pieraccini said. “This is a story about the natural world. This is a story about human beings being a part of it — not different from it, not apart from it. Our presence degrades it, unfortunately, because we don’t pay attention to our effect on it. So let’s inform people about the world around us.”

Pieraccini explained he often enjoys taking a morning bicycle ride to a secluded spot in the woods to bask in nature’s bounty. He declined to disclose the location because he does not want people flocking to the area and further disrupting the wildlife. He said he likes to swim to a small, grassy island about 50 yards from shore so he can take in the natural, undisturbed beauty and listen to the wind blow. This spot has been near and dear to his heart for a half-century.

He said he meditated and watched the ducks on Sept. 6, before deciding to swim back to his bike at roughly 11 a.m.

“(The beaver) started on my leg. I never saw him. I thought it was some weird mutant lake trout,” Pieraccini recalled. “He surfaced near my head and grabbed my head. He went to bite my head. I punched him a couple of times.”

Pieraccini said the 35- to 40-pound beaver repeatedly dove underwater and resurfaced about 15 feet in front of him to begin attacking again. He estimates the attack lasted five minutes before he could get to shore. He said he realized he was going to drown if he focused on fighting back.

“I just had to take the licking and get to shore. By the time I got to shore, I was exhausted,” he recounted, adding that he briefly passed out near his bike due to exhaustion and blood loss. “If I had to swim 10 more yards, I would have drowned. … If he had come onshore, he would have finished me off. I would not have been able to fight him off. He would have finished killing me.”

Pieraccini said he crawled onto his bike and pedaled about a mile and a half to his car, then drove to the emergency room.

Woodard said Pieraccini is in excellent shape and “was in remarkably good spirits throughout the entire” time at Baystate Franklin. He said Pieraccini could very easily have bled to death or drowned.

Emily Stolarski, communications coordinator for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said the division’s biologists say beaver bites and attacks are rare.

Woodard said people should avoid beaver dens, adding that beavers typically warn humans by slapping their tails.

“Definitely don’t hang out and take pictures,” he said. “Just get out of there.”




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