Baby beaver lost in river had ‘tragic ending.’ Rescuers hope its story can save others

Rescuers are hoping the story of a furry baby beaver that met an unfortunate end after getting lost in a river may help save the lives of other animals in similar situations.

A Connecticut homeowner found a “little beaver baby” swimming in salt water Oct. 21, according to an Oct. 22 Facebook post from Waterford-East Lyme Animal Control. The baby was spotted near Keeny Cove and the Niantic River, which empties into the Long Island Sound.

The baby was “a little lost” as it drifted through the water, the shelter said, and its parents were nowhere to be found. The beaver was estimated to be aout 5 to 6 months old, according to the post.

The resident called the non-emergency police number, which then routed to animal control, to address the situation, Waterford-East Lyme assistant animal control officer Allison Ryan told McClatchy News. When she arrived at the scene, a few neighbors were standing outside watching the beaver drift around.

That’s when she noticed something wasn’t quite right with the baby beaver, Ryan said. It was mostly floating in the river but would swim in slow circles at times.

After drifting away from the homeowner’s property, Ryan said she had to walk to another neighbor’s dock to get the beaver out of the water. Using a long-pole fishing net, Ryan scooped the beaver out of the water — and its unusual behavior continued.

“He did not react like a beaver should,” she said. “He was way too docile, he was definitely not feeling well.”

The entire rescue from the water took less than an hour, Ryan said. But the 6-pound beaver still needed care quick, since it seemed to be sick after being in the salt water.

Beavers are freshwater animals, and ingesting too much salt water can be toxic, Kim Lambert, an Old Lyme volunteer wildlife rehabilitator who works with small mammals and nonmigratory birds, told McClatchy News. Ryan had contacted Lambert, who had worked with beavers a handful of times, to take the baby in.

Lambert met up with Ryan to take the beaver back to her home, where she handles her wildlife rehabilitation. She has a large garage area to do animal intake, as well as a dedicated room in her house with incubators for orphaned baby animals, Lambert said.

When she saw the baby beaver, she noticed it didn’t have any wounds. It did seem that it was “severely dehydrated,” she said, which would suggest it may have been in the salt water for a while.

It was also odd that the baby was alone in the water, as beavers typically stay in “a pretty solid unit” as a family, Lambert said.

Because the baby was covered in salt water, the first thing Lambert said she did was dry it off with a towel and cleaned off as much of the salt as possible using a spray bottle.

She also made attempts to hydrate the beaver and stabilize its temperature, but after six hours, the baby had a seizure and died, Lambert said. She said she believes the cause could be saltwater poisoning.

“I cried my eyes out,” she said. “I was so sad.”

In wildlife rehabilitation, dealing with baby animals who meet a “tragic ending” can come with territory, but at times, it can be a struggle for rehabilitators who can feel guilty they didn’t do enough, Lambert said. She was just glad the baby beaver didn’t suffer too long, she said, with which Ryan agreed.

“It’s always hard going to a wildlife call. You never really know what you’re going to get and unfortunately, sometimes, it is part of life,” Ryan said. “It happens, it stinks, but if I can do anything to make the suffering for that animal less, I feel like I did some good.”

There could be a lot of different reasons why the baby beaver ended up in the Niantic River, Lambert said, including recent flooding in the area that could have pushed the beaver from its home. But there’s another factor she said she couldn’t quite shake when thinking about how the baby ended up in the deadly situation.

“People get very passionate about not wanting beavers in their area because beavers create dams,” Lambert said. “So because of that, it puts a lot of them in harm’s way.”

People taking down dams and trapping beavers can create ripple effects that can lead to situations like the baby beaver’s, Lambert said. Although it can be frustrating when beavers dam near a home and cause flooding, it’s better for beavers if people learn to coexist, Lambert said.

More humane practices such as pond levelers or other devices to alleviate flooding while not moving beavers are just a few steps people can take, Lambert said.

Ryan and Lambert both said they hope more people will call wildlife officials if they see an animal in a potentially precarious situation — like seeing a beaver swimming in saltwater. The earlier an intervention can happen, the better, Lambert said.

Waterford and East Lyme are about 40 to 45 miles east of New Haven.

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