Mountain Beavers are common and widespread in Western Washington, but few people would recognize one if they saw it. This is because, for the most part, they are rarely seen. They are quiet and inconspicuous animals, creating burrows in steep ravines and gullies that humans rarely enter. But on May 17, a juvenile Mountain Beaver in Edmonds was anything but inconspicuous as he sat in the middle of the road. Fortunately, a kind human scooped him up before any harm befell him and brought him to the PAWS Wildlife Center.
The young Mountain Beaver was dehydrated and lethargic, but uninjured. The species has a poorly developed sense of sight and hearing, and if they become separated from their burrows and well-worn surface trails, they easily become lost. Found only one block away from prime habitat, that is likely what happened to this Mountain Beaver.
Watching a Mountain Beaver release is a little bit like watching someone play with a yo-yo. Since they rely primarily on their well developed sense of smell and touch to navigate their environment, Mountain Beavers explore slowly and deliberately. The animal made at least a half-dozen short forays out of the carrier and back, no doubt laying down scent as he went so as not to lose the trail. I was standing completely still just a foot or so away, and although he could not see or hear me very well, the Mountain Beaver was clearly picking up my scent.
Eventually the Mountain Beaver found the burrow (visible behind him in the photo above). Once he discovered it, he wasted no more time on the surface. I watched as his plump little body disappeared into the dark, and I wished him well as I collected the release carrier and departed.