Ottawa

'Justin Beaver' makes splashy homecoming in Rideau River after 400-km journey

Covered by a thick Justin Bieber blanket in a large metal cage, "Justin Beaver" spent his final moments in captivity on the shore of the Rideau River with a handful of sticks and half an apple — leftover snacks from his 400-kilometre journey home.

Beaver recovered at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary for 5 months after being found dehydrated, thin

'Justin Beaver' gets his first taste of freedom after spending five months recovering at a wildlife sanctuary. (Chloé Fedio/CBC)

Covered by a thick Justin Bieber blanket in a large metal cage, "Justin Beaver" spent his final moments in captivity on the shore of the Rideau River with a handful of sticks and half an apple — leftover snacks from his 400-kilometre journey home.

As soon as the cage door opened, he scuttled out toward the water, swimming a few metres before whacking his tail to make a big splash.

His homecoming on Saturday afternoon comes after five months of recovery at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Rousseau, Ont., about 400 kilometres west of Ottawa. 

The young beaver was "lethargic and dehydrated" when he was found "far from a body of water" in an Osgoode backyard in December, said Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary board member Heather Badenoch.

"It wasn't entirely clear where he has come from," she said. "It wasn't simply a matter of getting him re-hydrated and re-releasing him. He didn't have any sort of obvious resources to sustain himself though the winter."

Volunteer drivers

The Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary made a public plea on Twitter in December for someone to drive the sick beaver to the sanctuary in Rousseau, which has an aquatic environment suitable for it to live.

All it took was 30 minutes to find a Good Samaritan to offer to take Justin the distance.

Under the law, a wild animal must be released within one kilometre of where it were captured. 

So on Saturday, when the beaver was deemed healthy enough to return to the wild, volunteer Stuart Musson from Kanata offered to drive after spending the night at a family cottage near the sanctuary.

The rules are strict: no talking and no music during the drive to keep the beaver from becoming naturalized to human sounds.

"All you heard was him chewing on sticks," Musson said.

Since Justin Beaver was found far from water, the nearest spot on the Rideau River was chosen as his new home, Badenoch said.

After watching the beaver swim off into the water, Musson returned to the cage and picked up the "Justin Beaver sticks," musing that he should sell them on eBay as a fundraiser for the sanctuary.