By the time they’d finished, and when cleanup crews discovered them, the beavers were in big trouble themselves – covered in toxic oil and chemicals.
But this week, after months of special care, the beavers were released back to the wild. It’s a rare, but very real, happy ending story.
It began in March when a Chevron diesel pipe broke north of Salt Lake City, near the Willard Creek Wildlife Reserve.
A few days later, cleaning crews came upon two beavers, soaked in diesel oil, and realized that it was their dam that was holding the oil back in Willard Creek and stopping it from pouring downstream into the bird sanctuary.
The brother and sister, hailed as “beaver heroes” in the Utah media, were taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, literally dripping with diesel fuel, their skin and eyes burned, and much of their fur gone. They’d swallowed a lot of oil, too, and their future was very uncertain.
Lots of baths and the never-ending hunt for their favorite food: fresh aspen.In the days that followed, the cleanup crews found four more beavers who needed help – and more dams they’d built to hold back the oil.
What followed was a long rehab for all of them. DaLyn Erickson, director of the wildlife center, says it’s been a tough five months, including lots of baths and the never-ending hunt for their favorite food: fresh aspen.
“It has been a roller-coaster ride of emotions,” Erickson told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We came in every morning holding our breath while we peeked in and hoped they were still alive. It was hard not knowing what we would see or what new problems may have come up. We celebrated the tiniest bit of progress.”
“They were in pretty rough shape when we took them in to the center,” said Phil Douglass of the Division of Wildlife Resources. “But they are very good at rehabilitating wildlife and we expected that they would survive. We identified an area we feel will be a great habitat for the beavers.”
The location is being kept secret to give the beavers a chance not to be hunted or trapped and turned into fur hats.
One of the volunteers, Brayden Child, who helped take the beavers out to their new home, said they were obviously excited when they saw what was happening.
“They knew what was going on, ” he said. “They were trying to get to the willows when we carried them in the cages.”