During spring and early summer, Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary receives hundreds of phone calls about orphaned wildlife or animals in distress.
We try our best to deal with each situation in a positive manner, and accept as many raccoons and squirrels as staff and volunteers are able to handle.
Of course, these are not the only animals that come into our care, but are the most common.
Fawns, fox kits, coyote pups, a fisher and otter pup have all been brought to us as well. These are all very special in their own way, but the story this week features two orphans that all staff and volunteers fall in love with – baby beavers.
These orphans are very vulnerable when separated from their parents. In the wild, baby beavers are cared for by their extended family – mother, father and older siblings all take a turn providing them with warmth and companionship.
Unfortunately, parents and siblings are sometimes killed. The orphans left behind can’t survive on their own, especially if they are still nursing.
In late May, some cottagers found an orphaned beaver kit under their dock. Little Monty was brought to Aspen Valley, where he was fed a proper beaver formula (beaver milk has a very high fat content, and these animals are lactose intolerant like most baby wildlife). He soon started gaining weight and taking daily swims.
However, a single beaver is also a lonely beaver, so when we received a phone call from a lady in Iroquois Falls, in northern Ontario, asking us if we would take a beaver kit that had been rescued after trappers killed its parents, we were relieved that Monty would have a buddy.
There was just one problem - the wildfires in their area prevented them from getting out on to the road south. After consultation with staff, the woman who found the beaver agreed to care for Jessie the beaver, until it was possible to bring her to Aspen. She and her family diligently fed the suggested formula and kept it warm at night in a box with a blanket, offering it twigs to nibble and carry around. Even a baby beaver has the instinct to be busy with twigs, which will eventually lead to dam and den building when older.
Wild at Heart
Later, a relay that included a ride with an MNR conservation officer to Cochrane, with another volunteer to Espanola, through another volunteer finally led to Wild at Heart, a wildlife rehab centre in Sudbury. Staff at Wild at Heart then took the kit on to French River, were Aspen staff picked her up.
The friendship wasn’t instant. Jessie jumped on Monty’s back and chased him around the pen on their first couple of encounters, so they were separated overnight.
The following day, when they were introduced again, Monty snuck up on Jessie, who was sleeping, and bit her on the backside.
It wasn’t a great start, but the following evening when they were found sleeping side by side in one crate. Having sorted out their differences, they now the wrestle and play.
Both kits have gained weight and are thriving with the care of staff and volunteers. They are a joy to watch as they develop individual personalities, and we look forward to setting them free for a life in the wild.
(These weekly articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)