1985 - Black and white file photo - Jack Hanna (left) introduces Arnold the Pig to David Letterman. (Photo by Jeff Borden) *** Taken 2/14/1985 *** Ran in the paper Feb. 15, 1985. ***

Jack Hanna remembers beaver bite on Letterman show

Animal antics on live television are a hallmark of Jack Hanna’s appearances over the years.

But 30 years ago, Hanna endured a beaver bite that took a chunk out of his hand and sent him scrambling to a Manhattan hospital.

It happened in December 1988 on "Late Night With David Letterman." Hanna brought a beaver with him on loan from the Alexandria (Louisiana) Zoological Park.

Hanna put the beaver in a tank of water, then picked it up.

“Letterman’s band starts playing a note and it scares the beaver,” Hanna said. “The beaver swings around and the tooth tore into my hand. There is a hole in my hand.

“I was in shock. Beyond shock. Blood squirting out like a hose. But Letterman didn’t see it. I turned and tried to hide it.”

The show went to commercial, and Hanna tried to stick it out for the second segment. He had a falconer’s glove backstage and shoved his bleeding left hand into it.

“I started to get lightheaded and felt like I was going to puke,” he said. “I lasted for about 90 seconds until someone held up a cue card for Letterman and it says, `Jack has been severely bitten.’ (Letterman) said, `OK everyone, let’s take a break.’ ”

Hanna and Suzi Rapp, a zoo employee who accompanied him to the show, ran four blocks to the emergency room of Roosevelt Hospital (now called Mount Sinai West).

“The nurse starts yelling, 'Shooting victim!’ because the blood is all over me,” Hanna said. “She says ‘where were you shot?’ I said, ‘I wasn’t shot ma'am, I was bitten by a beaver.’ ”

Doctors patched him up and he later had hand surgery in Columbus.


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