American Beaver #23-0124

February 20, 2023
Rescue Location
Rockbridge County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Possible fight with another beaver
Former Patient
Patient photo

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On February 20, the Center admitted a rather uncommon patient – a juvenile American Beaver! The beaver was found motionless, but still breathing, in the middle of the road in Rockbridge County. The rescuer used gloves and a blanket to carefully contain the injured mammal and transported it to the Center.

On admission, the beaver, a juvenile male, was alert and responsive. Veterinary intern Dr. Olivia and Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Karra Pierce examined the beaver and found that he was mildly dehydrated and had two wounds: one on his back and one on his tail. The tail wound was only superficial, but the wound on the beaver’s back was large and deep. Based on the wound’s appearance, Dr. Karra suspects that the beaver was injured in a territorial dispute with another beaver. Radiographs did not reveal any internal trauma.

After the exam, Dr. Olivia surgically debrided the wound on the beaver’s back, then cleaned and bandaged both of his wounds. She started the young mammal on both antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to help his wounds heal. The beaver was initially kept inside the hospital to rest, but was moved to the Center’s large mammal isolation (LMI) enclosure the following day to give him more space.


The veterinary team will continue to closely monitor the beaver’s wounds; his prognosis is guarded.

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Patient Updates

The veterinary team was saddened to find that American Beaver #23-0124 died during care on April 13. Staff found the beaver deceased inside the Center’s Bear Pen enclosure during morning treatments. On April 12, veterinary staff noted the beaver appeared dull, was barely moving throughout the day, and had not eaten any of his offered meal. The specific cause of death is not known but is likely related to his low body condition score, decreasing weight, and the severity of his wounds combined with the difficulties associated with rehabilitating beavers in a captive setting.

During the past three weeks, American Beaver #23-0124’s wounds have been steadily healing. Veterinary staff report that while his ability to walk and move using his hind limbs has improved during recent weeks and fewer instances of “knuckling” have been observed, physical conditioning is still needed. Rehabilitation staff offer the beaver fresh browse every day in addition to a “mush bowl” – a pureed combination of sweet potato, specially formulated rodent food, pumpkin, and fruit. Daily checks have confirmed that his wounds have remained clean, intact, and free of infection, and no longer need to be covered with bandages.

During veterinary rounds on March 30, Dr. Karra noted that an important aspect of this beaver’s full rehabilitation will be the regrowth of the dense, water-resistant fur covering the areas that were shaved upon admission for wound care and bandaging. For now, the beaver will remain in LMI enclosure and receive daily supportive care and physical conditioning.

American Beaver #23-0124 has been doing well in the Center’s LMI enclosure during the past week and a half. Veterinary staff have been monitoring the wound on the beaver’s back each day, checking for signs of infection and necrosis, and changing his bandages as needed.

On March 5, Dr. Olivia noted that the overall size of the wound had decreased to about one-half of its original size and that the bandage could be removed. That same day, the beaver was anesthetized and veterinary staff sutured the wound closed after scrubbing and flushing the area. A temporary bandage was placed over the sutures, and the beaver recovered from anesthesia smoothly and uneventfully. For now, the beaver will remain in LMI under close observation.

On admission, veterinary staff noted weakness in his hind limbs and “knuckling”– walking on the knuckles instead of flat on the pad of the foot. Dr. Karra suspects this may be related to either the location of the wound and associated pain while moving, or an underlying neurologic issue. Slight improvement has been observed in his ability to walk and move throughout the outdoor enclosure, but further observation is needed to accurately assess the root cause. His prognosis remains guarded, as this species’ natural habitat can be difficult to emulate in a rehabilitative setting.