The Ann Arbor beaver’s misadventures finish with a bubble bathtub
Go over, Bambi. A new furry treasure has just captured our hearts. His adorable little orange smile and fondness for bubble baths have, as they say, gone viral.
I’m talking about St. Francis Wildlife’s 30-pound semi-aquatic guest who made a splash in a world hungry for good news – the beaver.
Recently, St. Francis Wildlife was called to rescue a small adult beaver that was stuck in a stormwater treatment plant. The Ann Arbor Fire Department, Ann Arbor Animal Control and a deputy sheriff from Leon County also came to offer assistance if needed. Yes, this is a city of animal lovers.
St. Francis wildlife rescuer Brian Weinstein and volunteer Larry Folsom used a long fishing rod and drop net to lift the beaver. The rescuer Nicholas Petryk then brought the exhausted animal to our wildlife hospital.
Wildlife rehabilitators Kayla Gainer-Edwards and Nicole Rivera examined it from head to tail, then quickly gave it a dawn bath to wash off the acidic treatment water.
In one of our videos that went viral on social media, the beaver appears to be using its small front paws to lather its own belly while rubber gloved hands wash the rest of its body, including the famous large beaver tail.
More:Rescuing the barn owl helps solve the mystery one animal at a time, Sandy Beck
As it dried on soft towels, Gainer-Edwards and Rivera put soothing drops in their eyes, treated its cuts and bruises, and started on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Then the exhausted animal took a long nap under a glowing red heat lamp, hopefully dreaming of its luxurious spa treatment rather than the scary ordeal that morning.
Battle damage from beavers
We sometimes hear from people who are concerned about flood problems and tree damage and want the perpetrator beaver to be caught and relocated.
A beaver’s sharp teeth and powerful jaw muscles can hum through a large tree in a matter of hours. Like its smaller rodent cousin, the squirrel, beavers have to gnaw to prune their ever-growing, orange-colored front teeth. As a vegetarian, the beaver peels delicate twigs, leaves and the inner cambium layer from tree bark. It drags the remaining branches home for stowing and building.
Killing or trapping one beaver is an ineffective, short-term solution as another beaver will move in quickly to fill in the void in the habitat. Adolescent beavers spend two years with their parents learning survival skills. So losing an adult would be inhuman or put a long-term burden on the wildlife rehabilitation center that is rescuing him.
Destroying a dam is pointless as the hardworking beaver will be rebuilt faster than you can destroy it, removing even more trees in the process. Fortunately, there are inexpensive, non-fatal ways to protect certain trees and mitigate flooding.
Individual trees can be spared by wrapping three foot high welded steel wire cylinders (not chicken wire) around the base of the trunks that are attached to the ground to protect the roots and prevent the animal from digging underneath. Leave a 6 inch growing space between the tree and the wire. A fence made of the same material can protect a grove of trees. Beavers are not good climbers.
Wildlife experts have invented clever management methods – including a pond leveler pipe system and round fences – that can control flooding and blocked passage problems. Learn more about these and other non-fatal ways to resolve human-beaver conflicts at www.beaverinstitute.org.
Why bother sparing those chubby rodents?
The beaver is a key species that benefits almost anything that walks, flies, and swims. Remove the dam – the little technological wonder – and the pond, and remove the fish and frogs, as well as the gray herons and little owls that feed on them. You get the picture.
By storing runoff water and slowly releasing it, allowing it to settle in the land and replenish the groundwater, beaver dams also reduce downstream flooding and erosion. This can be even more important at higher elevations as rain replaces snow due to climate change. But these animals urgently need our help.
In his book “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Lives of Beavers and Why They Are Important,” Ben Goldfarb wrote that our country was once a much wetter, more fertile and lush America than we know it today. Then, for the sake of fashion, the trappers disappointed America.
In the 1830s, New England was beaver free. In 1843, John James Audubon traveled 2,200 miles along the Missouri and did not see a single beaver.
Thanks to conservation laws and human efforts to coexist with beavers, their numbers have recovered. The changing public perception of beavers is evident this week in the millions of fans (yes, millions!) An unlikely buck-toothed star attracted on social media.
Rescued beaver, released when ready
Our beaver patient wants you to know he swims daily in the St. Francis Wildlife duck geese habitat (our beaver river otter habitat is being repaired) and then returns to a cozy 10 foot indoor suite to dry off and warm up under a heat lamp. After a nap, it feeds on tender twigs, bark, land and water vegetation, rodent block and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Without the castor oil in the fur, which it lost in the water treatment pond and Dawn bath, water will penetrate the skin and cause hypothermia. In a few weeks, when the natural oils are replenished and the fur is water resistant, St. Francis Wildlife will release it to a safe beaver habitat in Upper Lake Lafayette.
Beavers are really worth a dam.
Sandy Beck is the Director of Education for St. Francis Wildlife. Contact her at [email protected]
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