-By Auna Badke, Biologist, FoxWood Raptor and Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
In the Spring, FoxWood becomes alive with young and orphaned animals, but we also receive many calls concerning injured wildlife.
One of our newest wild patients is a 30-plus pound female beaver. We rescued her this weekend from the Bonneyville Mill area, where she had been attacked by dogs. She is currently on antibiotics, as well as medication to help control pain.
Beavers are the largest rodents found in North America. Adults weigh between 30 and 70 pounds and measure about 4 feet in length. The most unusual part of a beaver is its broad flat tail. The tail is mainly used as a rudder during swimming, and also supports the animal’s body when cutting trees. When startled, the tail is smacked on the surface of the water, and alerts other beavers of danger. To escape danger, beavers dive under water and can remain submerged for up to six minutes.
These animal engineers are known for cutting down trees and constructing dams. A beaver’s front teeth (incisors) grow throughout its life. The back surface of their incisors is softer than the front surface so that when they gnaw, the teeth are constantly sharpened. When cutting a tree, the beaver turns its head, then anchors it upper teeth into the tree. It then twists its head, brings up its lower teeth, and tears out a large chip. It may continue to cut around the trunk until the tree falls. In our area, beaver restrict most of their cuttings to small saplings and brush, although they may fell large trees. Most Indiana beavers also build modified bank burrows. One or two tunnels lead up to the bank to a nest chamber from below to water level to above. The nest chamber is usually about 4 to 6 feet in diameter to 2 feet high, and a pile of branches and sticks mixed with mud is placed above it.
The beaver’s front feet are used for digging, grooming and carrying objects. Their large hind feet are fully webbed and aid in swimming. The second toenail of each hind foot is split and is used as a comb to groom its fur.
Beavers are vegetarians. In the winter, the primarily eat twigs and tree bark, and other woody plants. Food is readily available because it is stashed under water in a large brush piles. In the spring and summer, they eat leafy roots and parts of aquatic plants, such as water lily, and cattails. They also like corn and blackberry canes.
Beavers have few enemies, and predation is limited primarily to man, and as you can see, dogs can present a danger as well. We have had several dog-related injuries brought to us in the past month, some of them very severe. If you live in the country, or near county parks or protected areas, please remember to control your dogs, and do not let them run loose. Even a small dog is capable of injuring or killing another animal.
If you find a wild animal that needs help, or would like to talk to one of our staff at FoxWood Raptor and Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, please call or text us at 574-848-7199. We are always happy to help with humane solutions to animal problems or rescue. Also, please visit our website at foxwoodwildlife.com, and find out what we do, and maybe sponsor one of our wildlife rescues!
(Auna is a biologist for FoxWood Raptor and Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, and is employed as an inspector for the Indiana Board of Animal Health).