Barbara Filipos laughs when she tells the story now, but it wasn’t very funny when she was bitten recently by a beaver near her home on Peaks Island.

Still, Filipos is remarkably forgiving of the large brown rodent that wandered into her waterfront neighborhood on April 17, riled her Jack Russell terrier Boomer and prompted a rescue effort that ultimately went awry.

Filipos’ experience has entertained many residents on the Casco Bay island, which is about a mile outside Portland Harbor and has a colony of 16 to 20 beavers.

“It wasn’t as though the beaver was lurking in the bushes and it was an unprovoked attack,” Filipos said as she began her tale.

Boomer had been relaxing on the front lawn that evening, “watching the world go by,” when Filipos suddenly heard him barking wildly. She went outside to see what was going on and followed the sound of the commotion from the end of Island Avenue to Evergreen Landing.

“The beaver went by and he followed it,” Filipos said. “By the time I got out there – it was just a few seconds – he was circling the beaver and barking, and the beaver was snarling and gnashing its teeth.”

Neighbors gathered. Filipos was afraid Boomer would get hurt. Jack Russells were bred for hunting and are known for rooting out pests. But she feared that her 20-pound dog was no match for an estimated 40-pound beaver. Someone spotted a tarp nearby and suggested using it to subdue the beaver.

“It sounded like a good idea,” Filipos said.

THE ‘GOOD’ IDEA

Someone threw the tarp over the beaver. Filipos dived into the fray, grabbed Boomer and turned to race back to her house. Suddenly, the beaver darted out from under the tarp and latched onto her left calf before fleeing the scene.

“I saw him coming,” Filipos said. “I had no idea beavers could be so fast.”

The strong jaws and long teeth of the wood-eating animal left a nasty puncture wound. The island’s police officer and paramedics came, but Filipos declined to be transported to a hospital on the mainland. The retired elementary school teacher and real estate agent said she initially didn’t feel the need to go.

“It didn’t hurt and it happened so fast,” she said.

A neighbor, who is a doctor, cleaned and dressed her wound. Later, Filipos took the Casco Bay Ferry to Portland and went to the emergency room on her own. The wound wasn’t stitched up so it would heal properly. The doctor put her on antibiotics and a four-shot course of the rabies vaccine that ends Friday, though it’s considered unlikely that the beaver had rabies. These days, she said, the shots are given in the muscle of the upper arm instead of the abdomen.

“It’s more of a hassle than anything else,” Filipos said of her extended treatment.

Beavers can contract rabies and become aggressive, but it’s rare. The last case of a beaver testing positive for rabies in Maine occurred 17 years ago, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

News reports on the 1998 incident said it was the state’s first confirmed case of a rabid beaver. The 30-pound animal bit a golden retriever as the dog swam in a stream in the Lincoln County town of Jefferson. The sick beaver also was seen chasing cars along a bridge. It was tested after it was found dead beside the stream days later.

BEAVERS ON THE MOVE

Filipos said she was surprised that a beaver would venture away from the back or eastern side of Peaks Island – where the colony has a lodge near Trout Pond, in a marshy area that’s part of the 720-acre Peaks Island Land Preserve. Her neighborhood is on a northern point facing Great Diamond Island and the mainland.

Another Peaks resident reported seeing a stray beaver in recent weeks near the Trefethen-Evergreen Improvement Association clubhouse, on the island’s western shore, said Robert Villforth, vice president of the land preserve’s board of directors.

“It was grooming itself by a stream,” Villforth said. “The beavers do appear to be moving around a bit more.”

Beaver populations wax and wane, depending on their food supply, wildlife experts say. The current colony on Peaks came to the island around 2004, when an initial pair of beavers was spotted swimming near a rocky beach on the southeast shore.

An animal lover, Filipos doesn’t blame the beaver. Still, she has been keeping Boomer leashed since their scuffle.

“It was an unfortunate experience for the beaver, the dog and me,” Filipos said. “But I don’t fault the beaver.”

Staff Writer John Richardson contributed to this report.