While swimming in a remote Western Massachusetts pond, a 73-year old man was attacked—and nearly killed—by a presumably rabid beaver.

For over half a century, Mark “Pres” Pieraccini has ridden his bicycle to a secluded pond. He swims to an inshore island, meditates, and heads back to shore. On September 6, his return trip was anything but calm.

According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Pieraccini said, “(The beaver) started on my leg. I never saw him. I thought it was some weird mutant lake trout. He surfaced near my head and grabbed my head. He went to bite my head. I punched him a couple of times.” The beaver continued his attack for five minutes until Pieraccini could return to shore.

“I just had to take the licking and get to shore. By the time I got to shore, I was exhausted,” he told the Gazette, 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,” he said. “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.”

The attack left Pieraccini with lacerations which included chunks of flesh torn from his arms and legs. He sustained a fractured finger as well as a lacerated tendon on his left index finger. “I still can’t feel my thumb.

Emily Stolarski, the communications coordinator for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said beaver attacks are rare. “Almost all these incidents that we are aware of have occurred when people are swimming in a beaver pond near a beaver lodge and a few of those incidents involved swimming with dogs,” she said via email. “Each time our biologists felt it was a beaver acting territorial near its lodge. In each case, we recommended rabies shots for the person or dog that was bitten.”

In 2018, Dan Wherley, a Pennsylvania man and his daughter were attacked by a beaver while kayaking. “It was a big ass crazy beaver,” he wrote in the Facebook post. The attack continued on land, and though Wherley smashed the beaver with rocks, it did not stop. “After about 5 more big rocks to the head it swam away a little bit, then came right back. I grabbed a big stick and smacked it on the head 5 times as hard as I could, and the last hit crushed it’s skull.”