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Duration:30:54
Uploaded:2020-04-16
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Watch Huckleberry the beaver grow up! Enjoy this combination of videos that follow Huck's adventures from a 4lb baby to a 40lb adult!

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Taylor: Hi! My name is Taylor, and I'd like to share a very special story with you about a beaver named Huckleberry. I work at an animal rescue and education center called Animal Wonders, and a few years ago we rescued a baby beaver who was orphaned and needed help. He was so small and he required special care in order to survive. Let's take a look at Huckleberry's very first video with his very excited caretaker, Jessie.

Jessi: So we got a call that an animal needed help, like, right then, and we weren't prepared but we said yes and we said 'well, we'll do what we can for this animal'. And, he's sleeping right now but let's--let's meet him. [to Huckleberry] Hi sleepy boy! What do you think? How's it going? Wanna come say hi? There you go. [to camera] Guys, it's a baby beaver.

He is incredibly, densely furred; very soft, actually, to the touch. His tail feels kind of like leather, I don't know, like a belt a little bit. He has a, um, almost like a sweet, musty odor? And he's very food-oriented so I am going to get his mid-day meal ready for him and, uh, make him a happy little guy. We think that he's around five weeks old which is still young enough that he needs to have milk; he should be being nursed by his mother but he has neurological damage and is unable to be raised by his mother. So, um, we are giving him some TLC, and I've got some formula just for him! I love how well he takes this, and you can see that he's holding on to the syringe and he keeps moving his little hands around which is a normal behavior that he would do while he's nursing with his mother. And these guys are very vocal when they eat too.

He's eating four times a day now, and--and that's the formula and on top of that he's also started eating some fresh produce, some starter foods, and that's a really good sign that he's strong and healthy and doing what he should do. We're also offering him a variety of different kinds of soft woods, but when we first put him in he was not interested at all, so what I did was got really close to him and I took the branch between my fingers and pretended to use my fingers like teeth and chew on it, and then he's like 'oh, whatcha doing over there' and then he came over and started mimicking. So because these guys are so social, using mimicry like that is a great way for them to experience and try new things.

Alright, he has eaten the entire syringe, and he's not gonna be happy when I take it away. [to Huckleberry] Sorry, buddy. Alright, let's wash you up, huh? What do you think? Tell em about it. Tell me about it, tell me about it, so mad! [to camera] That is a little beaver temper tantrum.

Alright now that he's finished he has to go to the bathroom, and beavers go to the bathroom in the water, so I'm gonna put him in his little pool of water here, let him go poo. [to Huckleberry] Good job, buddy. Alright, all done? Come on out! Woah, nicely done! [to camera] He is getting so much better at that! It is a great sign that he's getting stronger; he can--he can get out of his tub! For a while there he was struggling a little bit but, uh, he's getting stronger and stronger which makes me so happy.

Okay, this tub of water is pretty dirty now so I'm gonna go ahead and change that. There we go, fresh and clean. So this is not a permanent set up for the beaver. He is going to get huge, like, up to 50 pounds and three feet long huge. There's no way he's going to be able to--to live in a kiddie pool forever. Um, this is just our temporary set up.

We were surprised to get a beaver and so as he grows our accommodations for him will also need to grow, so that's an adventure that we're going on right now. For now, it's crucial that he gets a ton of socialization. These guys are very social in the wild; they usually spend up to two years with their parents and their family groups before they move on to their own territory. So right now he has a stuffed animal to cuddle with, lots of soft blankets, things to--to hide in so he feels secure, but we also just hang out in his little kiddie pool with him and snuggle.

You can see that he's, uh, pretty tuckered out right now; he's just snoozing away, and there's two reasons for that: beavers are nocturnal so he wouldn't be awake during the day very much anyway, and also he just ate a big meal so he's resting and digesting.

Doing what we do, taking in displaced exotic animals and providing them a lifelong home is challenging because we can't always prepare for the unexpected, and sometimes a lot of unexpected things happen. But we do like to be flexible enough so that we're ready to take on the surprises like getting a baby beaver! So we're pretty excited to take on this challenge.

Well this has been fun I'm so glad I get to introduce you to our newest animal. [to Huckleberry] You are being a terrible co-host! You fell asleep in your own party.

Taylor: I love seeing baby Huckleberry, and I'm so glad that we were able to take him in and help him grow strong and healthy. As Huckleberry grew bigger we learned more about his special needs and how we could help him thrive.

Jessi: [to Huckleberry] Hello handsome-face! Hi dude! What do you think? Wanna come eat some breakfast? Here, do you need some help? Yeah? Up we go. Nice work! There you go! Here, would you like an apple? Yeah? There you go, don't fall!

Hi guys, I wanted to give you an update on our little baby beaver here, who's growing so big! Huck is about nine weeks old now, and he has tripled in size. You can see he's eating solid foods now, his favorite are apple slices and rodent blocks, which, this is really good for him gives him lots of his nutrients [to Huckleberry] Yeah, get it all in your mouth; good job! [to camera] He loves eating, he's a really good eater. He loves social interaction, but there are some other things that we're still working on.

Huck has mild neurological damage, and was diagnosed through watching his behavior and working with our vet. He has trouble balancing, and will often step sideways and stumble. He has trouble moving over objects, and we're still determining if it's safe for him to full-on swim and dive. We're also concerned about his eyes. They water quite frequently, and we're wondering if he can see out of his right eye. Further behavioral assessment is needed to determine what his abilities are.

[to Huckleberry] What do you think? Here. Here. There you go, good job! [to camera] He is really social and I love that, but, like in the wild, he's particular about who he's familiar with or social with, so he's bonded very strongly to me but he's still quite wary of strangers. Because he's so comfortable with me and we've established a really strong trust bond, I've actually been able to take him out on public presentations already so we can educate about how amazing beavers are.

Since he is a baby beaver right now my favorite part to talk about during public presentations is the fact that baby beavers actually have to fart in order to get all the air out of their belly to leave their lodge, so it's a perfect time to talk about it, he's a baby! One of the things I'm working with him right now is trying to get him to practice some gross motor skills, so getting him to balance-- [to Huckleberry] You got it buddy! Oh--oh that was a pretty good one. [to camera] Look at him go! Yeah! I wanna work on his gross motor skills so he can be the best beaver he can be and I can offer him an enclosure with varying levels and different sub-straits and he can manage it well.

A couple weeks ago we moved him from his temporary enclosure in just the kiddie pool to this larger space. This is actually our, um, late American mink Frazier's old enclosure, um, but it's working out well for Huck here cause we can put his kiddie pool right inside and let him explore at his own pace.

Something exciting that happened in the last two weeks is that he started eating solid foods but then he started chewing on wood and you can see that he has chewed the bark off of these aspen branches and--ahh he's growing up so fast! As he continues to grow we will continue to make modifications for his needs. I'm hoping to be able to remove the kiddie pool and get a deeper tank that he might be able to swim and fully submerge if he's able to do that. For now we're just gonna keep going at his pace and whatever he needs we'll give him.

Taylor: Providing special care for a baby beaver with neurological trauma was a big task, but that wasn't the only challenge we faced. With adorable baby beavers comes a lot of hard work.

Jessi: [to Huckleberry] Hi buddy, are you ready? Breakfast time! What's goin' on? Can you watch out? This goes this way. Watch out! All the way around. Good boy! Come here, dude. Come here. What do you think? That was dinner last night. Hi! Here, yeah I know, here you want some apples? No, no apples. Say 'that's not my favorite', this is your favorite! Yeah! There you go.

Hi guys welcome back to Animal Wonders! We're checking in with Huckleberry today, and I'm gonna give you a quick update! Pickin' the best stuff, what is it gonna be? Apple and spinach--mm that does sound good actually.

It's been a few weeks since you've seen him, and in that time we built him a new water tank. The big challenge with beavers is that they are semi-aquatic so they need some place to swim or be in water and that's a pretty big challenge when they're living in captivity. And that's compounded with his ataxia which means that he has poor gross motor skills which means that he will fall off balance every once and a while, so we have to build a safe way for him to access his water.

So it's morning time right now and I'm just checking in with him, he's eating his breakfast now and I am gonna--[to Huckleberry] here you go, bud. [to camera] I'm gonna show you what it takes to clean this guy's space. I'm gonna put him in the corner here so that he's out of the way, and you can see that he's building a little nest over here so I'm gonna put his food over here--[to Huckleberry] come here, dude. You ready? There you go, here here here, food food food food food! There you go. You stay out of the way. [to camera] Alright, I'm gonna go get my supplies now.

Alright, you ready guys? This is basically like--like a--a water sucker? I don't know it's gonna suck up all of this water that Huck has pooped in. Woah!

Alright, so this is obviously still a work in progress; this is the second day we've attempted this so everything is new, and, uh, we just have poop water everywhere, you know? That's fine. Okay, so the new plan is to fill up the tank and then just manually empty the tank instead of having it go off. Eventually maybe we'll figure something out that's better but that's what we're doing right now.

Okay, take two. Stop it! Oh, god. Why won't you stay in. Stop the flood, guys, gross. Oh my gosh, okay, okay that wasn't that bad. That wasn't terrible. We got this. Here's the tank. Alright, let's finish her off. We're gonna rinse this side out and turn it on at the same time.

Hey, hey, success! [to Huckleberry] You're doing alright. There you go, buddy. Yeah. Look, fresh water, you smell it? You'll get used to this. It'll be fine.

Alright, that's pretty good. I don't want it too deep right now, um, he's still not very confident in his swimming abilities, so we're just gonna keep it wading level, and, uh, he's doing pretty good. I mean, he didn't like the loud noises but he settled down and he's munching now so he's gonna get used to it.

He's doing it so soft so I don't know if you guys can hear it but he's doing his little happy whistle, which is this really high-pitched soft whistle. I'm just gonna get him to practice going up and down this, I just wanna make sure I'm watching him to see that he can do it, and it--he's been doing a really good job on it, actually. It's just every once and a while he'll fall sideways. But as he gets bigger it seems like he's getting stronger too.

Beavers are very, very social in the wild and they would stay with their parents for two years, and thay'd have their older siblings with them as well and then in their second year they would have their younger siblings so they do a lot of just hanging out with each other. Sometimes I'll just come and just sit in his space with him and he'll walk over and kinda slump down next to me and put his back up against my leg and we'll just hang out together, and that's really important for his mental well being because he is such a social animal.

As far as his future goes we don't know what that holds, um, with his ataxia that could prevent him from having a companion, and it's really hard to introduce beavers, we actually don't know what sex he is, as he gets older we'll for sure determine if he's male or female and then he'll need the opposite sex and then that interaction might not even go through, I mean, these guys are individuals you can't make them like each other, so future's up in the air right now. We're just gonna go at his pace and see what he needs.

[to Huckleberry] Wanna go for a swim, buddy? Show me how you get down that rock. You got it. Show me how you step out. Oh, what a good boy. Nicely done. That was a little stumbly but you caught yourself really well. Do you want to go into the water? What do you think? Oh yeah! [to camera] And I will come out and I will just see him laying in the water, which is really good, and you can see-- [to Huckleberry] look at this buddy, move your tail. [to camera] You can see he has already christened the new water. Water is such a stimulant for them, it's very important for their digestive system as well. So even though it's a big pain to clean it's really important for him. Hi. Oh, I know!

Taylor: I remember the good old days of vacuuming up poop water! Just kidding, that was the worst. As more and more people fell in love with Huckleberry we asked for help to build him a home designed just for his needs. Check it out.

Jessi: We're going to Huckleberry's new home right now, and I'm so excited to show you, but let's take a step back and see what led us to this point. Huckleberry is a North American Beaver that was orphaned and injured and brought to Animal Wonders in July 2017, when he was just about 5 weeks old. He's not able to be released back into the wild because he has ataxia, which is a neurological condition where he doesn't have full control of his muscles all of the time. 

He also has impaired vision in his right eye. Put these together and you have a beaver who will sometimes stumble and fall sideways, sometimes run into walls or branches, and submerging under
deep water could be risky if he loses control of the muscles around his nostrils and water gets into his nose. 

Even with his disabilities, Huckleberry is a charismatic guy who deserves the best care we can provide for him. He likes to chew on and stack branches, and make makeshift forts. He likes wading in
shallow water, and he loves eating. His favorite snacks are yams and apples, but he'll add any kind of plant to his menu, including leaves and wood.

A little over a year ago we asked for help raising funds to build a new home that would keep Huckleberry happy and healthy for the rest of his life. Because beavers are semi-aquatic, we needed to design a pool for him, and that's not an easy task because we live in an area that gets really cold for half the year.  We're often below 0 degrees Farenheit for a couple months at a time.

We had so much support. We were able to make the plans and start construction on his new home. But it's not done yet. This is what we've been working on so far.  We dug a huge trench to lay down the water line 6 feet deep to prevent them from freezing over the winter months. 

We also ran electricity so we could give him light and run a pump and filter in his pool. All this digging left our entire yard a huge muddy mess, which we'll be cleaning up this spring. Next we lay down a slab of concrete, including a hole for the pool. And then up with the walls. During the process we included a second enclosure under the same roof so we could be prepared for the future if, or 
more likely, when another animal needed a safe place to call home.

We got the roof on just before the first big snow and then it really started to come together. We finished the walls with super extra
insulation to make sure the pool wouldn't freeze and added a little bit of heat. Next came the important part, we had to make  everything chew-proof, because well, this is a home for a beaver. 
Everything within reach of a beaver is covered in metal or tile or concrete. 

I'll be adding a big log against the edge of the pool here which will help prevent him from falling in unexpectedly. And we added wide steps so it creates a gradual deepening of the water. The steps are long enough for him to be able to wade onto and then rest on before he has to prepare for the next step down. The pool is a really important feature of this new home, but it's also the most risky.

Beavers are semi-aquatic which means they need to have access to both land and water in order to thrive. So water is necessary, but we have to be cautious and see if and how quickly he can learn to safely swim, because of his ataxia. So we'll start off with just shallow water that he can wade into and hopefully we can raise the level up
until it's filled to the top.

Since we don't know how he's going to react, it could be a slow process. But we'll let him take the lead at whatever speed is comfortable for him. I'm so excited!

Now we're obviously not done with this space yet. We have a few things left to finish. The first is we need to add siding to the outside.  We also have to add the outdoor yard off the backside and we have to finish this top row of tiles. This is the fun part! Those of
you that have been with us for a while and helped us get this project off the ground might know that the tiles we're going to line around his pool have the names of supporters, who donated to
build Huckleberry his new home, painted on them. 

Thank you for letting me share what we've been working on, and what our future plans are. I'll be sure to capture Huckleberry's reaction to his new home, and his new pool as soon as possible.

Taylor: I love caring for Huckleberry, but I was not sad to leave that water tank behind. The move into his new big home was much anticipated by all of us, but we were worried about his ability to swim proficiently. Let's see how he does in his new pool. 

Jessie: Huckleberry, our beaver, is learning to swim. We've started introducing him to his new home and more exciting, his new pool! So I'm going to get prepared and then go get him for a visit to his pool.

First, I need some of his favorite foods.  So the challenging part about introducing Huckleberry to deep water is that he has impaired vision in his right eye and ataxia, which is a neurological condition that causes lack of coordination of his muscles. Combined, these disabilities can make it hard for Huckleberry to walk, climb, or swim without accidentally hurting himself.  Now, let's go get him into his crate.  

Huckleberry does really well most of the time and only occasionally has trouble with his disabilities.  He'll sometimes walk into branches, stumble to the side, or fall forward off a rock he's standing on. Usually it's just minor and he recovers pretty quickly, so it's not a major concern to his health.  We just need to keep his abilities in mind when we care for him.

When he moved into his current space, it took him a couple weeks to get the hang of climbing a ramp and getting in and out of his tank of water, but he manages really well now.  That tells me that with practice, he can learn how to navigate in a space that he knows well.  So, practice makes perfect.  

Okay, we made it.  Now, my biggest concern is that Huckleberry will aspirate or breathe water into his nose.  Beavers are semi-aquatic and spend a lot of their time floating and swimming in the water. 

They have special muscles that close their nostrils when they dive, but with his ataxia, there's a chance he'll lose his coordination and his nostrils won't close when he goes underwater.  This actually happened when we were first introducing him to swimming.  He was at an age where he should have been a proficient swimmer, but when he dipped his head under the water, he aspirated and he was still quite small and weak from malnutrition, so it was a bit of a scare.

Alright, buddy, are you ready?  Come on out.  Now that Huckleberry is bigger, stronger, and robustly healthy, and he's had lots of practice managing his disabilities, I think he's ready to take on this new challenge of swimming in a pool, so Huckleberry has been in here only twice before, but this time, I filled the water a bit higher.  The first time, there was just six inches of water and I wanted to make sure he could navigate the stairs and he could safely explore the new space.

The second time, I filled it halfway up the second stair so he had a place to wade onto before going fully into the deep end.  Both times, he managed the stairs really well.  He did what he's learned to do and that's to go slowly and feel with his hands before fully committing to stepping down.  Also, both times when he dipped his head underwater, he did get some in his nose but he was able to blow it back out and that's what I'm hoping he'll be able to do from here on out.

Even if his ataxia makes him uncoordinated and he aspirates the water, it'll happen less and less often the more he practices, and since he's strong and healthy, he'll be able to just blow it out or sneeze and clear his lungs.  Look at him go.  He's just really enjoying himself.  Whoo, look at that!  I don't know if you can see him, but as he dove, his nostrils closed right on up there and then he was able to come back out and the water just slipped out, so I think he's doing amazing.  Thanks.  

And now it's time to persuade a beaver to come out of this water and back in his crate.  Wanna come out?  Yeah.  You can't stay in here just yet.  You need a little bit more practice.  Remember, practice makes perfect.  Yeah?  We can come back tomorrow.  You wanna come out of there?  Here, I don't feel like stepping down in the water.  Do you smell the apple?  Go and eat it.  Go get the apple.  Are you--uhhh.  It's so cold, guys.  Here we go.  Hey!   I know!  There you go!  Ooough.  And another one, ooh.  You're heavy, beaver.  I got ya.  Up we go, in the crate.  Oh my gosh. Whoo! 

Taylor: Huckleberry did so well! And I'm so proud of him. Moving him into his new home was such a success, and we loved seeing him thrive as he got better and better at swimming. While he enjoyed his pool, we continue our work on completing the rest of his home, most importantly his yard. After a few days of practice on the uneven ground, he was able to maneuver around confidently. 

One of my favourite parts of caring for Huckleberry is making him happy, which is why I'd like to end on this recent video of him enjoying Christmas trees.

Jessie: Beavers are an interesting animal because they don't just chew down trees to use them for their dams and lodges, they actually eat the trees.  Mostly, they're going for the cambium layer, just under the bark, but they will often consume whole branches, which is a lot of fiber.  Their digestive system needs a ton of fiber to function properly and if they don't get enough wood to eat, they'll go into GI distress, so Huckleberry gets branches every day along with a bowl of treats like yam and kale.  His favorite kind of branches to eat are aspen, but he also accepts willow and birch.

Pine and fir trees, which are often used for Christmas trees, are very common in our area, but they're not the best for consumption all the time, so he doesn't get them very often.   Today, he's already gotten his regular branches and his bowl of breakfast treats, but I have two retired Christmas trees that I think he is going to really like.

The trees are not commercially grown.  They were harvested from the wild so they haven't been sprayed with any chemicals to keep them green, which means it's totally safe for him to be around them and even to eat them if he wants, and the other thing I want to show you today is Huckleberry's new yard.  So I'm going to put the trees in his yard and then let him do whatever he wants with them.  

Hello, bud.  Look what I have for you.  Look.  It's a Christmas tree! Look at him go!  Get that branch.  Beavers are actually incredibly strong.  I like how he goes to chew the branch off right at the base of it, right against the trunk there and he knows exactly when to pull it off, and his teeth are huge and they're just perfectly shaped so he can just chisel them right off.  That's incredible.

I just love watching animals interact with their environments.  It's my job to give them what they need to express natural wild behaviors, even though they can't live in the wild.  Offering a whole tree is different than just offering branches, because he has to manipulate it in a completely different way.  He can't simply pick up a branch and drag it away.  He has to chew the branch off the trunk first, which is another behavior altogether.

Huck has access to his yard through this doggy door, so he can come and go as he pleases.  Beavers are well suited to living in the cold climate of Montana.  Freezing temperatures aren't a big issue for them.  The lakes, streams, and ponds they would call home often ice over completely, but beavers don't hibernate during this time. They do spend much of the winter inside their lodges, which are carefully constructed to retain body heat.  

With a beaver family living in the lodge, it's actually pretty cozy inside because it stays above freezing and they have access to unfrozen water all winter long.  Huck's pool is inside and the building is kind of like a really big lodge.  We keep the temperature above freezing so the water and filtration system don't freeze and we can completely clean that water every day.

He also has an igloo hut, which he uses like he would the cozy part of his lodge.  He likes to build structures around and over his igloo with his branches, which is pretty fun to see.  It means he's doing what comes naturally to a beaver, and that tells me he's a happy guy.

It's been such an incredible journey with Huckleberry, getting to see him grow up and get stronger.  Over the last couple of years, we've had to constantly adjust his home so he could practice his mobility skills and then, we got to watch and learn how to manage his ataxia in different situations.  Just look how good he's doing!  He can walk with very few stumbles.  He can chew off branches and drag them where he wants to, and he can swim!  He's simply amazing.  

It did take him just a little bit of time to manage his new yard, but we made it nice and flat and open, which is much easier for him to maneuver.  He figured out the doggy door incredibly fast and I think that's because he relies more on his sense of smell than his eyesight.  He could smell the open space on the other side of it and when he touched the movable flap, he quickly assessed that he could easily push through it.  

Now that his branches are all in the pool of water and he's done swimming, he has come up here and started grooming.  I think he's preparing to go back to bed.  Huckleberry is incredible.  Even though he has his disabilities, I'm so proud to see him thriving and doing the things he loves to do.  Well, Huckleberry, I hope you continue to enjoy your Christmas present for days to come. 

Taylor: Well I hope you enjoyed watching Huckleberry grow from such a vulnerable baby to the strong adult he is now.  He's an amazing ambassador for his species and his story doesn't end here.  He will continue to shine on for decades to come.

Thank you for watching, and if you'd like to support our channel and all the work we do, please head over to patreon.com/animalwonders to join our team of patrons with your monthly pledge.  And if you'd like to continue going on adventures with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel, Animal Wonders Montana, and we'll see you next week. Thanks!