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Alex Acquisto/Bangor Daily News

Man, as they say, is the deadliest animal. So when we speak of armed self defense in our country we’re usually talking about threats coming from a bipedal source. But that isn’t always the case, as a young lady from Hope, Maine discovered this month.

Twenty-one-year-old Rachel Borch was jogging on a narrow footpath through the local countryside when she encountered an unexpected threat — a hostile raccoon blocking her path. And it attacked her.

“I knew instantly it had to be rabid,” Ms. Borsch told the Bangor Daily News. She dropped her phone and began “dancing around it, trying to figure out what to do.”

“Imagine the Tasmanian devil,” she said. “It was terrifying.”

The path was too narrow for Borch to run past the raccoon, which had begun lunging at her. With adrenaline pumping, Borch suspended her disbelief.

“I knew it was going to bite me,” she said.

Figuring she would have the greatest ability to defend herself if she used her hands to hold it down, she decided that probably would be the best place for the aggressive animal to latch on.

The raccoon sank its teeth into Borch’s thumb and “wouldn’t let go.” Its paws were scratching her arms and legs wildly as Borch screamed and cried.

But fear not, the ladies of Maine are made of sterner stuff than those of other states I could mention. She realized that her phone, dropped earlier, had fallen into a puddle on the path and was completely underwater…which gave her an idea.

“I didn’t think I could strangle [the raccoon] with my bare hands,” she remembers thinking, but holding it under the water might do the trick.

Connecting the dots quickly, Borch, then on her knees, dragged the still biting raccoon, which was scratching frantically at her hand and arms, into the puddle.

“With my thumb in its mouth, I just pushed its head down into the muck,” Borch said.

With the animal belly-up, she held its head under water. “It was still struggling and clawing at my arms. It wouldn’t let go of my thumb,” she said.

Borch said she held it there for what felt like an eternity until finally it stopped struggling and “its arms sort of of fell to the side, its chest still heaving really slowly.”

Hyperventilating and in hysterics, she pulled her thumb out of the raccoon’s mouth, “and then I just bolted as fast as I could through the underbrush,” she said.

Ms. Borch retreated home and was soon under the care of physicians. The raccoon, whose corpse was retrieved by her father, was soon confirmed to have had rabies, and the young Pine Tree State denizen began the regimen of multiple injections of rabies vaccine, immunoglobulin, and tetanus vaccine that everyone exposed to the dread disease must undergo. Her final treatment is scheduled for this weekend.

“It’s scary stuff,” Animal Control officer Heidi Blood told the Daily News. “The No. 1 thing we try to remind people of is that it’s 100 percent fatal [if it goes untreated].” Worse, she added, where there’s one infection, there’s usually others. Earlier this week, a man in Topsham, Maine — about an hour’s drive from Hope — was attacked by what was suspected to be a rabid fox.

Ms. Borch attributes her escape, in part, to blind luck.

“If there hadn’t been water on the ground, I don’t know what I would have done,” Borch said of drowning the animal. “It really was just dumb luck. I’ve never killed an animal with my bare hands. I’m a vegetarian. It was self-defense.”

Like nearby Vermont, Maine is a constitutional carry state where law-abiding residents over the age of 21 can legally carry a handgun without obtaining state permission. Considering the size of the animal, even a .380 might have stopped the attack — as Rick Perry found when protecting his pet from an aggressive coyote some years ago…something for Ms. Borch to consider for her future explorations of the world of Katahdin.


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  1. Well done, Hipster tree hugger!

    Consider this: Next time it could be a two-legged varmint. What are you prepared to do?

      • I’m curious, why did you sell it? I’m thinking about getting a black widow.

        I currently carry my TCP when cycling. (About once a week these days.)

        most of the time, it’s in a small backpack with all my other stuff, but I’ve also carried it at 3 o’clock in a kydex belt holster. ( I just wear the gun belt I normally use, but it’s only holding the gun instead of my pants, gun, and all the other crap I keep in my pockets.) I’ve carried that way running too. Works pretty good.

    • I could see mace, but running with a gun is a pain. In San Antonio we do have a guy who runs through downtown with jogging shorts and a full sized revolver strapped to his ribs, a tip of the hat to him but I don’t want to do that.

  2. Props! Yeah a gun would be nice…but she didn’t get all girly. I’ve encountered same nasty critters too. Are racoon’s susceptible to pepper gel? Anyone?

    • Usually most animals are put off by pepper spray, but I don’t know if it would be quite so effective against a rabid animal. Best not to gamble, though. It’s hard for an animal to ignore holes in its body or head.

  3. She lost me at “jogging”. But kudos for surviving a vicious attack, and my sympathy for the ongoing treatment. If she has a temper tantrum anytime soon, folks will be worried. As a vegetarian, she is probably also a Democrat, but perhaps this unfortunate experience will make her ponder her political orientation as well as her preparedness for unpleasant confrontations in wild places. The penny may take a while to drop. Democrats prefer to have other people do their thinking for them. Not a safe policy.

    • “Democrats prefer to let other people do their thinking for them.” That’s a real original statement. Did you come up with that one on your own? Have you met many Democrats? And no, imaginary straw boogeymen don’t count.

  4. Um… what’s up with that picture? Did she lose an arm in this struggle? Did she drown a rabid raccoon one handed? Is her arm in a sling… somehow? So confused!

    • I think she’s got her right hand back on her hip. I can barely make out her elbow in that position.

      I was once attacked by a badger, but a couple of 124 grain 9mm projo’s stopped the attack. Scared the sh!t outta me!
      I had him made into a hat.

      • I shot a dog thru the head with a .22 once. Didn’t have to get rabies shots or nothing.

        You don’t have to get bit to get rabies. Hand to hand is a good way to get all sorts of diseases.

  5. “I’ve never killed an animal with my bare hands. I’m a vegetarian.”

    I’m a carnivore and I never killed an animal with my bare hands either.

  6. Do they still have to give those rabies shots in the belly, or did they come up with something better? That never sounded fun to me.

  7. “I’ve never killed an animal with my bare hands. I’m a vegetarian.”
    That line gave me a chuckle.

    A word of caution for all the bunny-hugging, skinny jean wearing, hipster snowflakes out there: Rabid animals are not vegetarians.

    And the next time you encounter a potentially deadly animal in your path, perhaps turn around and head back to where you came from.

  8. The official name for rabies is “hydrophobia”. In the throes of the disease they apparently develop a fear of water.

    In this case it seems appropriate.

  9. I think she tried to pet it, highly doubt she was unable to keep running or just turn and run the other way. If she was bit on the leg I may think otherwise, but she had to have stopped, bent down and extended her hands in order to be bit on the hand.

    • Have you ever been warned about rabid animals? Her whole story is consistent with exactly what you’d expect from a rabid animal. It first attacked her by surprise while she was running on a narrow path in the woods and most likely infected her at that point. After the first attack, it was still right near her and she described it as lunging at her “like the tazmanian devil.” The whole thing sounds straight out of a textbook on rabid animal behavior. It’s entirely believable that she couldn’t get past it or run away away, because in the final stages of the disease, the animal’s singular goal is ATTACK, without provocation, at all costs. Since another attack seemed inevitable, she decided she gave it somewhere to attack where she’d still have control of it with her hands to keep it from jumping onto her back or leg or somewhere that would’ve made it had to run away.

  10. Sort of odd to have this story as just last week, I was called to put down a Raccoon. The only difference is this one had climbed a utility pole sticking its face where it shouldn’t have and blew the transformer fuse on a 7000 volt line. Those are loud as hell when they blow and needless to say it didn’t do Mr. Raccoon any good. With the utility crew there trying to install a new fuse but a weird messed up Raccoon around their feet, they didn’t know quite what to do. So, they did what any red blooded American would do embracing indecision, they smacked it with a 2 x 4. Clearly I wouldn’t be writing had 2 x 4 clobberization been effective, so shortly after, I received the call do dispatch said 7k blasted, 20 foot fallen, 2 x 4 clobbered Raccoon. Since this occurred in a residential neighborhood a mere five blocks from my own residence, where peaceful tranquility and safety is of paramount importance, I opted to use my integrally suppressed .22 PCP air rifle. A point-blank shot to the head ended the critters horrific encounter with modern society.

    • What was wrong with those doods? You can kill anything smaller than your average bovine with a solid length of 2×4. You just have to want it really bad. They must not have wanted it enough.

    • I don’t know how loud the PCP air rifles are, but the aguilla primer only .22 rounds are quieter than my son’s daisy air rifle and my springer air rifle. It’s what I use now on rats or the occasional possum.

      • PCP air rifles can be really loud. I Have a Sumatra 2500 in .22 that is damn near as loud as a rim-fire .22 It’s is a different noise as the rim-fire has more of “crack” type sound to it, and the Sumatra is more of a pow type sound, but still way too loud to be shooting in a residential area. That’s why I got the suppressed PCP rifle.

        And Ing, yeah they should have been able to dispatch the Raccoon with a 2 x 4. I’m guessing the person swinging the 2 x 4 just wasn’t able to get into the necessary violence of the act would be my guess. Beating an animal with all your buddies and people watching could be questionable in some peoples eyes. I certainly don’t fault the lineman for opting to let someone dispatch in a less violent method.

        • A lot of folk have trouble with that level of violence. Especially in a first world nation like the US. Most of us live in sanitized bubbles where the harsh realities of life simply don’t exist.

          Soft, easy living creates soft, easy people.

      • Have a source on those? I was looking for them and read they were discontinued. cci quiets are the best I can find now.

  11. Oh, come on! This is a stretch. People don’t want to have extra baggage when they’re running. Anyway, she wouldn’t have made national headlines if she hadn’t wrestled it with her bare hands like Elly May. Plus it attacked her before she saw it, so shooting only would’ve hypothetically prevented the thumb bit prevented the thumb bite and wouldn’t have been nearly as good of a story to tell for the rest of her life. Either way, she’d still have to go through the injection protocol for rabies exposure, which is going to be the biggest pain out of the whole scenario. They inject a LARGE amount of fluid into your butt with a big needle. It’s very unpleasant and old fashioned as it’s used so infrequently that there’s no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to improve it.

  12. I took my girlfriend to the natural history museum the other day, but the outdoor live animal areas were all closed because of rain except for the raccoon, so we took pictures of it eating carrots.


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