PAWS Magazine

Issue 73, Summer 2009

Baby Beavers Growing up at PAWS 

The Beaver is the largest rodent in North America. Although they weighed only one pound when admitted to PAWS Wildlife Center, these baby beavers may grow to weigh 50 pounds or more.

This spring, PAWS received a tiny, one-pound baby Beaver who was uninjured, but hypothermic, thin and weak. He had been found all alone on a sandbar along the Cedar River. The wildlife staff treated him for hypothermia to which he responded well, and nourished him with frequent bottle feedings. With his immediate medical needs taken care of, the team faced a new challenge: next steps for this kit's long term care. As a very young Beaver he would need lots of time before he would be mature and strong enough to survive on his own. However, Beaver kits are sensitive creatures and can be difficult to raise in captivity, especially if they are alone.

Mother Beavers are extremely attentive, grooming their kits frequently and allowing them to climb on their backs for a rest during swims. A lone Beaver kit is likely to become highly stressed and even depressed in the absence of interaction with others of his kind. He may develop stomach ulcers, stop eating altogether or suffer other serious complications.

Although PAWS staff did not hope that another young Beaver would be separated from her mother, we knew that the kit in our care would have a much better chance for survival if a companion for him could be found. To that end, PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager Dondi Byrne began calling other local wildlife rehabilitation centers in search of another young Beaver.

Photo of baby beavers at PAWS
In the wild, young beavers often climb onto their mother's back to rest during a swim. At PAWS, a toy stuffed animal was used as a surrogate mom for these orphans during their daily swims.



Unfortunately, these phone calls came up empty, and staff began to worry about the orphan's future. But just a couple of days later, another baby Beaver ended up needing our help. A woman who was walking along the banks of the Pilchuck River near Monroe, Washington watched as a jet-ski roared past, striking and killing an adult Beaver who had been swimming the river with two kits. One of the kits disappeared downstream while the other swam straight for the bank on which the woman was standing. As the kit climbed ashore, the woman scooped her up and brought her to PAWS.

Although the two Beaver kits did not seem to bond immediately when first introduced, it was clear that they were benefiting from each other's presence. For over a month they nursed from the same surrogate mother (a Beaver-shaped stuffed toy animal equipped with baby bottles), practiced their swimming together, and eventually weaned themselves onto solid food. It's hard to say how long PAWS will need to keep them in care before they'll be ready to go out on their own. But we do know that both kits are thriving and progressing well on their way to becoming healthy, adult Beavers.


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