casoverton (Courtesy of Cas Overton)

Cas Overton, 75, can claim something few others can: She strangled a rabid raccoon with her bare hands that was trying to attack her.

The Henrico County, Va., woman was walking alone looking at birds at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, where she volunteers. She suddenly noticed what appeared to be a rabid raccoon in front of her. It lunged at the inside of her left leg, puncturing her skin and latching onto her pants.

She had to think fast. She said she figured she could physically throw the raccoon off of her, but feared that if she did it would chase and “shred” her.

So Overton, who meditates and has practiced and taught Tai Chi for more than 40 years, pinned the raccoon to the ground and strangled it. It took about five minutes for the raccoon to stop moving.

“I am a strong person, I work out every day, I am really fit. I am sure that had implications, but it was the mental acuity to know that this had to be be taken care of right now,” she said Monday, about two weeks after the March 7 attack. “I stayed with it and did the deadly thing.”

Overton then ran about the length of a football field away and flagged down someone to call for help. She was taken to a hospital and the raccoon was collected to be tested for rabies. It tested positive and Overton has received vaccinations to avoid contracting the illness.

She didn’t suffer serious injuries — her knee was scraped and her wrist hurt for a few days from pinning the raccoon — and she has since returned to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, although she says she won’t go back to the area of the attack.  For her, the most painful aspect of it all is knowing that she killed the raccoon.

“I knew I was killing an animal, and I am an animal lover,” she said. “I am basically very Buddhist and Taoist in my approach to living, and you don’t kill. It was horrible, but it had to be done.”

The botanical gardens posted information about the attack for visitors and has tried to clear the area where the incident occurred.

“We are all very much inspired by her bravery and presence of mind,” said Beth Monroe, spokeswoman for the garden. “We are of course encouraging people to be very cognizant of their surroundings no matter where they are.”

Overton said she’s a bit confused and surprised by the attention she’s been receiving. A major network offered to fly her to Los Angeles for a television appearance and someone gave her a marriage proposal — two invitations she ultimately declined.

“People have been referring to me as a hero. What I did was not save anyone, I saved myself,” she said. “When I put my head on that pillow, the first thing that comes to my mind is that animal.”

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