AUSTIN (KXAN) — Navigating a growing city like Austin can be a difficult task, even for a human, so when a beaver took on the bustle, he may have bitten off more than he could chew.
The City of Austin’s Animal Protection unit got a call about a beaver in south Austin right before the winter storm. They found the male rodent in the road near a neighborhood off of Menchaca Road and Slaughter Lane. He wasn’t doing too well.
“He was thin, he was emaciated, dehydrated,” Hayley Hudnall said. “We didn’t really know why he was there, how he got there, how long he’d been away from either a water [source] or family group.”
Hudnall is the executive director at Austin Wildlife Rescue. Animal Protection transported the beaver to her small nonprofit’s rehabilitation center in Elgin, located at 111 Elbow Bend. They began treating him right away.
“We started him on fluids, we started getting him food, we did some tests and we found out he had parasites too, so we had to get him started on some de-wormers so that he could start putting on weight.”
The beaver weighed 19-20 pounds on arrival. Since then, he’s gained almost five pounds. He’s also become more active.
“He slowly started tipping over water bowls and he started destroying all the food that we gave him and he needed branches so he could chew on them,” Hudnall said. “As they get more active we move them into bigger and bigger enclosures and bigger areas.”
Currently, the beaver is recuperating at the rehab center inside a small metal pool as of Thursday morning. Inside, he is treated to food, wood, a hollowed tree trunk with a blanket and a smaller plastic pool with water to play in.
“He’s in this ‘pond’ right now, this pool with a pond and he loved it,” Hudnall said. “We gave him some water and he’s been swimming around ever since.”
In the next day or two, they’ll move him into one of their larger outdoor cages. After that, they’ll figure out when he’ll be ready for release. Usually, they want to return animals where they came from but in this case, since the beaver was out of place, they’re working with a couple of groups to figure out where is best to release him.
What strikes Hudnall the most is where the beaver was found and how he got there, especially since there are no major water sources nearby. She could only speculate.
“It’s hard to tell their age exactly. We think he’s about two years, which is roughly when they would leave their family group anyway, so maybe that’s what he was doing, but he wasn’t doing a good job of it,” Hudnall laughed.
Why Texas beavers move around
In the last 10 years, Hudnall has held her position, this beaver is one out of two she’s taken care of. She knows some beavers have been spotted on Lady Bird Lake and in some of the rivers and streams around Austin. They’re more common in northeast Texas, she said.
“The cold weather, in general, doesn’t bother most animals, they’re used to it. So yeah that [freeze] would be a good time for him to be on move and they’re most active at dawn or at night, so he was probably busy all night and then maybe he got caught in a neighborhood. He didn’t quite get back to where he thought he was going.”
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) states that Texas beavers do move around during the winter season.
“Although the water’s surface seldom freezes around its lodge, the southern beaver still gathers and stores a cache of twigs and branches underwater for winter food,” the TPWD website states.
Hudnall said the baby season for animals is ramping up with warm temperatures coming and their intake is rapidly increasing. They had more than 9,500 animals come to their facility last year. Every year they’ve been getting more animals than the previous. They keep breaking records and running out of space.
“More people are finding out about us but Austin is growing. We’re taking over a lot of that wildland and so these animals are just having more interactions with the public and then the public are bringing them in to us,” she said.
The Austin Animal Center states that “urban expansion results in fewer natural refuges for animal species. This loss of habitat is the number one reason wildlife is moving into the urban landscape.”
Austin Wildlife Rescue has a small staff and depends on the public to bring animals to them if they’re in an unnatural place. If it’s a potentially dangerous animal, Austin Animal Protection can step in and help. If you call AWR’s hotline, they can walk you through how to safely bring in an animal. The rescue’s website also offers a step-by-step guide and tips to transport. The hotline is open Monday through Sunday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.