Beaver pair reintroduced into the wild after developing fondness during rehabilitation
Two beavers, a female found near a golf course as a kit and a male that made its way into a storm drain after being attacked, have been released into the wild together after recovering from their respective injuries.
The two beavers were reintroduced into their natural habitat, at a location within the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA), on Friday after being rehabilitated at the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) near Madden.
Holly Duvall, the executive director of the AIWC, called the release spot a fantastic location for the beavers. “It’s a protected area, it’s private, it’s not on a trap line or anything like that,” explained Duvall. “It’s a fantastic habitat and it will give them the best chance of succeeding in the wild.”
The female beaver arrived at the AIWC in June 2016 when she was only five weeks old.. “We think that she was picked up by a predator and dropped,” said Duvall. “She came into care and, due to the natural history of beavers, we do have to keep them longer in wildlife rehabilitation because they do naturally spend two to three years with their parents.”
The male arrived at the conservation centre in 2017 at the age of two after being found in a storm drain with a serious bite wound to his back. Serendipitous is how Duvall refers to the events that led to Friday’s release of the primarily nocturnal animals.
“He was being housed outside in an adjoining enclosure to the female. Unbeknownst to us, they were connecting at night, trying to touch through the enclosure and so forth.”
Once the staff and volunteers realized the animals were exhibiting affection, supervised introductions were arranged. “They’ve done so well, really bonded and they hunker down together. They feed together and get along so, so well.”
Greg Shyba, the CEO of the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area, says there is optimism surrounding the arrival of the beavers to the 4,800 acre conservation area located south of Calgary.
“It’s going to help a lot,” said Shyba. “In fact, we did have a lot more beaver activity on the Cross conservation area. At one point, I think we counted 65 beavers.”
“A few years ago, for some reason, all the beavers disappeared here at the conservation area.”
Shyba says the beavers were released in a section of the conservation area far from hiking trails that requires permission to access.
“We’re going to give them a stab at living in paradise,” said Shyba. “This land will never be developed and the area where we’re dropping the beavers off is actually very limited to human activity.”
The ASCCA CEO says beavers are invaluable for the conservation area as the rodents maintain wetlands, create riparian areas for ducks and dammed areas attract birds.
Among the handful of people who witnessed the release was Greg Lewallen, a University of Saskatchewan PhD student who has focused his studies on beavers. He says he has no concerns with the ability of the animals to adapt to their new surroundings. “Even if they’ve never built a dam before, or seen a dam being built, they have the innate skills necessary to figure out how to live in the wild,” said Lewallen. “Given enough time and a safe place to live, they’ll figure it out for themselves.”
According to Duvall, the female beaver has yet to reach sexual maturity so it’s too early to determine if the released animals will become a mating pair. “We hope they stay together now that they’re released. They are male and female so, potentially in the future, they may breed.”
The female beaver had been a fixture at the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation for nearly two years and Duvall credits the AIWC staff, volunteers and donors for her successes.
“So many people have rallied around her and it’s fantastic that she’s finally back in the wild where she belongs.”
With files from CTV's Kevin Fleming