Four orphaned beaver kits are healthy and social thanks to workers at Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation West.
At only a few days old, the kits were brought to the refuge by trappers, who found them near Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. After discovering the kits next to their dead mother, the trappers felt bad about the now-orphaned beavers, and knew the young animals would need help to survive.
“So they brought them to us right away and we’ve been caring for them ever since,” Megan Lawrence, the director of rehabilitation at Salthaven, told CBC.
Salthaven West admits more than 500 animal patients each year, but Lawrence said this is the first time she’s ever cared for the iconic Canadian rodent. She’s learning on the job—referencing publications and seeking advice from wildlife rehabilitators with more experience—and things appear to be going well so far.
According to Lawrence, the kits were cold, weak, and hungry when they arrived at Salthaven two weeks ago. She said the team initially kept the beavers in an incubator for warmth, feeding them special formula shipped in from Arizona about eight times a day.
Since arriving at Salthaven, they’ve doubled in size, and they’re now down to about six feedings a day, which is good news for everyone. The kits are currently feeding from bottles and syringes, which is extremely labour intensive for those looking after them. Thankfully, Lawrence says they’ll be able to introduce the rodents to solid food, like sticks, in the near future.
But feeding isn’t all they have to worry about at Salthaven: “They do like attention, so they like to wrestle and play with each other and they cry [when they want] attention,” Lawrence told Global News.
The one-pound kits are now living safely inside a backyard pen. They’re often let out of the enclosure to roam the grass and take a daily dip in the kiddie pool that Lawrence set up so they can get a feel for water. Eventually, the beavers will be transported to a larger facility in Moose Jaw, where they’ll learn everything they need to survive on their own, from swimming to woodworking.
It’s not easy prepare animals for the wild, which is why Lawrence wants to remind people that it’s not right to bring in every baby animal you find—especially because they’re not always orphans.
Along with other wildlife facilities, Salthaven is trying to educate the public so that they understand that it’s okay for some baby animals to be left alone. Deer and rabbits, for instance, are known to leave their offspring for six to 12 hours at a time, only returning periodically to feed them. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to find fawns curled up alone in the grass or baby bunnies sleeping by themselves in dense foliage.
Just this spring, three fox kits brought to Salthaven were thought to be abducted. Although the person who dropped them off had good intentions, the kits were at the age when they begin playing outside their den independently, and were likely not orphans at all. The person also held onto the kits for a week before seeking help.
In this case, however, Lawrence says the trappers did the right thing. They were certain the mother was dead, and they brought the beavers to the facility as soon as they could.
If you’re ever unsure of what’s best for an animal, give your local wildlife rehabilitator or Ministry of Natural Resources a call. In the meantime, Salthaven’s website provides a quick primer on how to deal with situations like these.