HOPE, Maine — Despite drowning a rabid raccoon, Rachel Borch could not have predicted her story would spark a media frenzy.
Borch, 21, made famous virtually overnight after the Bangor Daily News published an article Wednesday about her heroic face-off with a rabid forest animal she eventually drowned in a puddle in an act of dire self-defense, has become somewhat of a sensation.
“Let me take your name and number, and I’ll put you on the list,” Brad Borch, Rachel’s father, said into the phone Thursday afternoon to a reporter from the Boston Herald. He had just hung up with the Canadian Broadcasting Co. Earlier that morning, CNN contacted both of his daughter’s grandfathers in an attempt to get in touch with her.
“I didn’t choose the rock star life. The rock star life chose me,” Rachel Borch said with a grin, sitting at her kitchen table Thursday afternoon at her home on Hatchet Mountain Road as her mom, Elizabeth Borch, fielded another call from another reporter.
Over the past 12 days, Rachel has repeatedly told the story of her terrifying encounter on June 3 with a rabid raccoon that began charging toward her on a wooded path while she was out for a jog.
Likening it to the Tasmanian devil, Borch said she defensively reached to grab the charging animal, but it sank its teeth into her thumb and wouldn’t let go, scratching her arms and legs wildly with its paws as she screamed.
Borch was unable to unhinge the critter’s jaw from her thumb and realized her phone had fallen and become submerged in a nearby puddle.
On her knees, she pushed the head of the biting raccoon, still scratching frantically at her hand and arms, into the water.
It drowned, belly-up, with Borch’s thumb still in its mouth.
After Borch sprinted home and went with her mom straight to the hospital, her dad collected the dead beast in a Taste of the Wild dog food bag and handed it over to the Maine Warden Service. The carcass later was tested by the Maine Center for Disease Control, which confirmed the raccoon was rabid.
Of the attention her story has garnered, Borch said she’s “glad it’s positive for the most [part].”
But, she said, “I really do also hope that I can accomplish something more with my life, more than just my 15 minutes of fame as a raccoon killer.”
The BDN’s story about Rachel received 20,000 Facebook likes as of Thursday afternoon. It has been covered by major news organizations around the world, including The Daily Mail, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the Denver Post, Esquire, Runner’s World, Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, USA Today and Deadspin.
“It’s definitely a crazy experience,” Borch admitted. “You can’t predict something like this. It’s not a situation ever in a million years that I would imagine myself in.”
As the articles have been retweeted and commented on by people across the world, many are referring to Borch as the epitome of a capable, self-empowered Maine woman, who can hold her own against wild animals.
“Don’t mess with a Maine woman!” one commenter wrote.
Borch said she doesn’t mind that comparison, and neither does her mom.
“I’m built into a stereotype, and I’m glad I can contribute positively,” Rachel said.
“Can you get a bad-ass degree?” Elizabeth asked.
“I’m still negotiating the rights to my book deal and Lifetime series,” Borch responded jokingly.
People have been asking about the fate of her waterlogged cellphone.
“I put it in [dry] rice,” Borch said. Now it’s being repaired in Rockland.
Borch said she hopes the media storm dies down soon. On Saturday, she is scheduled to receive her last injection for the bites she suffered in the attack.
Rabies, fatal if left untreated, affects the brain and spinal cord, according to Maine Center for Disease Control. It’s not spread by petting an infected animal, but when another animal or person comes in contact with the infected animal’s saliva. Rabies can infect any animal that has hair, according to the CDC. In Maine, the virus is most often carried by foxes, bats, skunks and raccoons.
Heidi Blood, the town’s animal control officer, warned of other potentially rabid animals in the area.
“Not to scare people,” Blood said Wednesday, but “when there’s one [infected], there’s typically another.”
Now that Borch is being treated for the virus, she’s more interested in figuring out how to jog in the woods again without fear of rabid animals attacking her.
“I guess it’s reassuring to me to be able to do something like that if I needed to,” said Borch, a vegetarian who said she had never pictured herself drowning an animal. “It was me or the raccoon.”
As for words of caution, Borch said, “If there’s any advice I have to give, it’s expect the unexpected. That’s the only possible thing you can glean from the situation.”