Returning a Beaver to Health and Home

It was an odd question.

“Should we be able to walk up to a beaver?” the caller to Anderson Humane’s wildlife department asked. His name was Jake, he was a farmer, and he and his girlfriend had a very docile beaver on their property. They were worried something was wrong with the animal, so they called Anderson Humane.

“Beavers are so territorial and smart,” said Ashley Kendall, Director of Wildlife at Anderson Humane. “When they’re injured they stay away from people.” So, the short answer to Jake’s question was no. Based on that fact, Ashley and the rest of her team suspected the animal wasn’t really a beaver. Maybe it was a woodchuck or muskrat.

But, sure enough, Jake soon brought in a beaver. “We did an exam and couldn’t find anything wrong,” Ashley said, adding that the beaver seemed disoriented and was holding her jaw open. Perhaps it was broken? She also had enlarged nipples, likely indicating she was a new mom. The wildlife team told Jake to keep an eye out for baby beavers near where he found the mama.

The wildlife team needed to x-ray the beaver to rule out any broken bones. But, it was Memorial Day weekend and Anderson Humane’s vet wasn’t available for several days. Thankfully, the wildlife team’s friends at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center were happy to help and even x-rayed the beaver on Memorial Day.

While the x-rays were normal, a closer inspection revealed that the beaver’s teats were inflamed. “Mostly likely something happened to separate her from her babies,” Ashley said. “An infection can occur when moms suddenly stop nursing.” The infection, mastitis, was causing the beaver to be delirious and experience fever and chills.

Ashley and her team took the beaver back to Anderson Humane for treatment. They had to fashion a makeshift shelter outside as they’d never treated a beaver before and didn’t have a suitable place for her to recover. Because the beaver wasn’t eating on her own, the wildlife staff fed her a special diet three times a day by syringe.

Thankfully, within a couple days of taking antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications, the beaver showed signs of improvement. She became more reactive and mobile. She also started swimming, which was important as beavers defecate under water.

After her two-week course of medication, the beaver was much better. Ashley was eager to get her back out in the wild, trying to prevent the animal from becoming too comfortable around or dependent upon people.

When the beaver was ready to be released, Ashley and her team took the beaver back to the creek where Jake had found her. (He never did find any babies.) “I could tell she knew she was home,” Ashley said, explaining that the beaver was responding to the familiar smells and sounds. “When we opened the crate, she just walked out and into the water and swam away. It was all pretty natural and matter of fact.”

Ashley and her team were more excited than the beaver. After a few weeks of caring for the animal, they were excited to see her well and at home. Also, wildlife success stories are rare. So many of the injuries the wildlife team sees are too damaging or they aren’t able to restore the animals to the point of being self-sufficient in the wild. But they keep at it, hoping for the exceptions and the chance to release an unfazed beaver back into the wild. “Stories like this keep us going in the world of wildlife.”

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