Beaver Babies are Born in January!
While ‘baby’ season doesn’t officially start until Valentine’s Day in Missouri & Illinois, we do have one native species that gets the early bird award for their offspring. Beaver babies are born as early as January each year. If you come across a baby beaver with no parents around, give the hotline a call to help assess the situation before you intervene. Have you ever seen something so adorable?
Have you found a baby beaver?
There are some questions to consider if you come across a beaver ‘kit’ as they’re called. Did you find the kit anywhere near water? Is it possible that he/she wandered too far from Mom & Dad? Can you find a dome-like structure in the water nearby? View our den photo gallery so you know what you are looking for. Does the kit seem lethargic, injured, bleeding? Kits should squeak at you incessantly when you pick them up off the ground. If the kit you have found isn’t struggling and making noise, there may be a problem that has caused him to not have the energy to argue. Look through the kit’s fur to see if there are any fleas, ticks, white rice-like packets in his fur, or any other large quantity of bugs on him.
If you find bugs, pick off what you can. When the kit gets to a rehabber they will have the proper medicine to get all the bugs off for good. You should not be able to feel baby beaver’s rib bones, or see any bones upon visual inspection. A healthy kit looks like a large fuzzy softball with a rubber like tail. If you feel the rib bones when you hold him, or notice that his teeth do not fit all that way in his mouth, he needs a rehabber. Teeth can be visible but they should never hang lower than the mouth or be so long that they can’t close their mouth properly. View the photos on this page to see healthy beaver kits and how they should look.
Sometimes the animals make this an easy decision for us where we can tell from a mile away that this animal is in need of serious help. One of the toughest parts of wildlife rehab is that our patients never tell us what happened to them. We have to guess, or go by a finder’s report if they saw what happened, which is usually only one piece of the puzzle.
The biggest thing we want to avoid is someone bringing us an orphaned anything that wasn’t truly in need of help. Even in the wild, mothers grieve the loss of a baby, especially beavers, and it kills us to think that Mom is back in the woods searching everyone for a baby that we have in our hands for no real reason. They are adorable, so much so that it is overwhelming sometimes, but please try to use your head instead of your heart when deciding how to proceed.
Does Baby Truly Need Rescued?
After visual inspection comes the hard part. You have to be the expert and decide whether this kit can be reunited with Mom & Dad or if this beaver is in need of medical care. Sometimes this determination is easy. If he looks okay and is fighting you when you pick him up that’s a good sign! That behavior is a kit that is acting exactly like it should! Look around for a den site (View our den photo gallery so you know what you are looking for) and try placing the kit as close as possible to the den site without him being in deep water. If possible, right before you put the kit down on the ground, try to hold him so that he makes noises. We want Mom to hear him but she won’t come get him until the humans are far away.
Often the den does not have a visible ‘door’ or opening, allowing for only underwater access to get in and out. We want Mom or Dad to come and show baby the way, because it is likely that baby truly doesn’t know his way back. You want to place the kit on the river or creek bank, in the mud right next to the water, not *IN* the water all the way. Babies cannot hold their breath as long as Mom, and they get tired while swimming long distance. The kit could die if it cannot get to land quickly enough. If the kit swims off into the water when you set him down, that’s okay, at least he know where the bank is. Then you just walk away. If it is possible to watch from far enough away so that Mom & Dad don’t see you, keep an eye on baby until you see his parents take him in the den. If you cannot watch him while also allowing Mom & Dad their seclusion, then go back to your car, house, wherever and return to the reunite site every 30-60 minutes to check on the kit’s progress. Hopefully you won’t even see him at the first check in. That’s a good thing! Mom probably heard him and now he’s in the den, probably grounded from going out for a while!
To see photos of the many different types of dens that beavers build and use, click here to see our Den Gallery.
If Baby Needs a Rehabber
If you find a kit that has injuries, or the animal seems lethargic, skinny, crawling with bugs he needs to go to rehab. When you approach the baby, or attempt to pick him up, he struggles, whines at you, twists his body trying to get out of your hands, or tries to bite this is a pretty healthy beaver and you need to look around for a den site. If not though, he probably needs rehab. Grab a shirt, blanket, towel or piece of some other cloth and pick up the kit, wrapping him in the blanket. *Warning* Do NOT take your eyes off baby when there is fabric of any kind that the kit can get to and chew on! Beavers cannot vomit, so if they eat a piece of towel, or any fabric it can cause an internal obstruction and mean certain death for the beaver. It’s okay to use fabrics, but make sure he doesn’t chew on it. Beavers chew on everything! Put wrapped up beaver in a box or small pet crate to get him home or to a rehabber. Call the hotline 24 hours a day to find one near you, or try our locator.
If you cannot get to a rehabber immediately, make sure to keep baby plenty warm in a dark, quiet corner of your home. If baby is alert enough and physically able, try to swim him in the kitchen sink or bathtub. *Warning* Beavers carry a transmittable disease called ‘Giardia’ which is contagious to dogs, cats, and humans. Beavers only urinate and defecate in water so when you swim him he will pee and poo. That poo can give you and your pets Giardia. Make sure that you bleach out the tub after swimming the beaver, and make sure that you don’t loom over the tub where baby can slap his tail and splash water directly into your mouth. Giardia is transmitted by oral to fecal contamination. Yes, that means don’t eat poop. Fill your bathtub with a very shallow amount of warm, not hot, water. Baby should be able to keep his head above water at all times, same thing with the kitchen sink. Just like any baby, when he is in the water you cannot walk away for anything. He must be watched the whole time. If you happen to have some willow branches, or aquatic plants of any kind, throw that in the water too. If he seems interested in the branches or plants, put those in his bed when he gets out of the bath too. Give him about 15 minutes to swim, but watch for him to get tired, cold, or distressed in any way. If he seems like he wants out, by all means, let him out. Now you get to see the most adorable thing you’ll ever witness! Drain the tub or sink, and give baby some time with no water in the tub/sink. He will begin grooming himself in the most adorable way. They have an oil gland under their tail that they use to spread oil all over their fur and they do this every time that they swim. Adult beavers are pretty good at it, but the babies try so hard. They groom their belly, behind their ears, and they grab their fat ‘rolls’ and groom those too. He’ll groom for a long time though, so you might have to stop him and dry him off so he doesn’t get too cold. When he’s done grooming he will look at you like “Okay, now I’m beautiful” even though he’s a wet fuzzy mess.
Do NOT, EVER try to feed baby beavers any kind of formula, milk or anything liquid while you have him!
They get water from the ‘swimming’ and any other type of ‘milk’ is a huge problem for them. Rehabbers have very specific formulas made by Zoologic and Fox Valley Nutrition that gives beaver kits the correct nutrition. Also beavers do not like the bottle at first, so they spit it up and can aspirate the formula into their lungs and develop pneumonia. There’s nothing worse than an adorable baby beaver getting to a rehab, only to die from something the finders tried to feed him. As always, if you have any questions that aren’t covered here, give us a call at the hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP and we would be happy to help you along.
If you would like more information about beavers and the conflicts they create, visit our Beaver Solutions page to learn more.