LUCKY GARVIN: The Beaver and The Bluejay

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Lucky Garvin

My wife, Sabrina, has a new love, but I’m not jealous. He only weighs a thousand grams, has the worst over-bite I’ve ever seen, and is six to twelve weeks old. He is a beaver; Diva the Beavah to be precise.

He is the sole survivor of his scattered colony; their fate never known. He walked up to a human who bought him to us. When a wild critter walks or flies to you, it means one of two things: they’re tame, or in trouble and are coming to you for help.

Beavers are the second largest rodents in the world [the largest being the S. America Capybara, which frequently exceeds 100 pounds in weight.] They are principally nocturnal, can remain submerged for up to fifteen minutes, dam creeks to create a pond which, in effect, serves as a protective moat within which they build their ‘lodge’, or home-place.

They chew down trees, of course, for food and construction material, and when the tree is too large to drag over land, they cut channels to float them to the pond. When alarmed, they slap their tails on the water as a form of ‘first-alert’ for the rest of the colony; this slap can be heard above and below water. They mate for life, have webbed rear feet for propulsion, live an average of 24 years, and weigh, on average 55 pounds. They seal their lodges with mud in early winter so it freezes rock-hard to defend against predators.

Beavers’ numbers are declining since America’s early days because of the market for their fur and their glands of which some medicines and perfumes are made. Can you imagine smelling a perfume made from beaver glands? The urge to go swimming or gnaw down a tree must be irresistible!

Beavers are a ‘Keystone Species’ meaning that they set the tone for, and are critical to, the ecological realm they inhabit. In other words, if an area which had beavers loses them, the bioclime becomes imperiled, chaotic, endangered.

The other thing, which bears heavily on this tale: the youngest beavers are catered to by parents and older siblings. “You want it, you got it!” seems to be embroidered on the doilies in the lodge. This showed up in our little one’s behavior. He was imperious, demanding and whiney. But, beaver are very social; in fact, we were told by rehabbers who specialize in beavers, they are one of the few species that rehabbers should cuddle. [Usually, that’s usually a no-no.] Diva the Beavah was imperious, spoiled, even to the point of slapping our hands if we didn’t bring him what he wanted.

After eating, we would take him out to a two-foot deep tub for him to swim. Not surprisingly, he seemed to take to this eagerly. Then he began to dive, a milestone for baby beavers; but, he never stopped whining when he wanted something. It was Sabrina’s job to figure out just what that something was, a difficult task in that my lady doesn’t speak ‘Beaver.”

During his stay, we in-took an adolescent Bluejay. Bluejays are member of the Corvid family. Along with Parrots, Corvids are said to be among the world’s most intelligent birds, as well as being capable of diverse vocalizations and mimicry.

This little one studied Diva intently, and soon made a connection between the following: That strange little thing with the funny feathers, big teeth, and two too many feet, makes a certain noise. Next, after the noise, people go to him with something he eats, and he doesn’t make that noise anymore. Sooo, the Bluejay began a perfect mimicry of the beaver’s call, so artful, in fact, that our volunteers, hearing the call, had to look between the two of them to decide who made the cry! For the length of time he was with us, the Bluejay continued this most successful summoning of food.

Nevertheless, beavers are social creatures, and we had no other to pair him with. The call went out. We found a woman who rehabbed beavers, and who happened to have one. We sent Divah on. My Sabrina was very teary-eyed at the separation. I watched her, and knew something else was at play here beyond merely sending off the enfant terrible.. Then it came to me: When the beaver whined, it sounded eerily like an infant crying. Maternal instinct; giving up your baby, it was so hard on her.

The good news is we heard that Divah has been successfully introduced to the other beaver and the two are getting on famously, though I must wonder if the other beaver had any idea what was coming his way . . . Wha! Wha!!!