An angry raccoon can be a nuisance, but a rabid raccoon can be downright life-threatening. For 75-year-old Cass Overton, what had been a pleasant bird-watching trip to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Virginia ended with her pinning a large raccoon to the ground.

“I tried to shake it off and realized how violent it was,” Overton told the Richmond Times Dispatch regarding last week’s encounter. “As I moved backward away from it, I grabbed its neck and I knew that I couldn’t get away from it. If I ran, it would be faster than I would and would just tear me to pieces.”

Overton, who occasionally volunteers at the garden, said that she first saw the raccoon when it was already running straight for her. The critter fastened itself on Overton’s leg and snapped at her, managing to scratch her on the knee. It wasn’t a serious injury, but Overton knew it could get much worse if she allowed the raccoon to continue.

“I got it by the neck with both hands,” she told Fox13. “I realized it was so violent, that I couldn’t throw it off and then expect that it would not be right after me. So, I knew what I had to do. I had to choke it.”

An instructor and practitioner of tai chi for nearly 40 years, Overton hardly expected to use her skills on an animal. The 75-year-old flung the critter to the ground and pressed her knee against the rabid critter’s throat until it stopped breathing. Overton, a professed animal lover, said that the move came out of pure instinct.

“It took about five minutes, before the deed was done,” Overton said. “It looked so much like my last dog, that upset me. But I guess something primitive just kicked in and there was nothing I could do but simply take it out.”

She was immediately transported to a nearby hospital and and received a series of rabies shots. Although painful and in many cases expensive, getting rabies shots early can dramatically increase their effectiveness. Overton’s treatment will involve a regime of four shots over a period of two weeks. State officials recovered the raccoon and confirmed on Tuesday that the animal was indeed rabid.

You can watch an interview with Overton below. 

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