Saskatchewan

Weak, orphaned beaver kits getting stronger at Regina wildlife centre

Trappers found four newborns next to their mother and called Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation West to help raise the orphans.

Trappers found the four newborns next to their mother, which was caught in a trap

This critter is being looked after in Regina for an eventual return to the wild. (Neil Cochrane/CBC)

As the director of rehabilitation at Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation West, Megan Lawrence has looked after a lot of different kinds of animals. But she's never looked after the iconic animal on Canada's five-cent coin. 

That changed two weeks ago when she got a call from trappers near Fort Qu'Appelle. 

The four kits feed through bottles or syringes. (Tory Gillis/CBC)
"They had trapped a female beaver, and in the trap next to her there was four newborn beaver kits," Lawrence said, adding that the hunters felt bad about the orphaned kits, and knew they needed help to survive.

"So they brought them to us right away and we've been caring for them ever since," she said. 

Kits double in size

At two weeks old, the sweet, soft kits are social and chatty now. They've nearly doubled in size since coming into care at Salthaven, but they needed a lot of help to get that way.

"When they first got to us they were in critical care. They were cold, weak, hungry. So we've been keeping them in an incubator, keeping them warm. And we've been feeding them about eight times a day, special formula," said Lawrence, adding that they now eat around six times per day.

Right now the four beaver kits are feeding on special formula, between six and eight times per day. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

"Their first feed is about six in the morning, the last one is about midnight, so after that I get some rest."

The kits feed from bottles or syringes right now, and Lawrence says the formula feedings are labour intensive. They'll soon be able to introduce solid food to the rodents, including sticks, because she says the animals can eat and digest the inner bark on some trees. But they're not ready to start woodworking just yet. 

Lawrence says she's learning how to care for the kits thanks to publications and advice from other wildlife rehabilitation experts who have more experience with beavers. 

For now, they're still spending time in the incubator, although they've spent some time outside in a pen with sticks and water when it's warm enough for them. Lawrence says they're slowly trying to introduce them to water, and she hopes a paddling pool will be the first place they try out their natural swimming instincts. 

"They're about the age now where they'd be naturally swimming in the wild with their parents, so we're going to start introducing them for short swims," she said. 

Looking ahead

Two of the orphaned beavers that are being cared for at an animal rescue shelter in Regina. (Neil Cochrane/CBC)

Eventually, the four siblings will be transferred to another, larger facility outside of Regina where they can get better at using the skills they'll need to survive and thrive in the wild.

Lawrence says it's not correct to turn in every orphaned animal, but in this case she says it was good that the trappers recognized the kits needed help and could improve under Salthaven's care.

"Especially if they know it's orphaned — in this case we knew mom had passed away — then definitely call a wildlife rehabilitator for help, and don't try to raise them yourself."

Megan Lawrence feeds one of four beaver kits she's caring for at Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation West in Regina. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

About the Author

Tory Gillis

Journalist

Tory Gillis is a journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. She's a reporter, radio newsreader/editor and associate producer with the Morning Edition.