A gift of an American Beaver skeleton

October 10, 2018

Riverside Park

Research & Community Science

Late last February (2018), we received an email from a community member about a beaver found dead in Riverside Park. This news was especially disheartening to us considering the near celebrity status the Milwaukee River Greenway beaver couple had gained not only publicly, but amongst staff. We had watched the activities of the beavers in Riverside Park for nearly five years and enjoyed hearing the stories from other staff and community members about their encounters.

Learning about the death of one-half of the beloved couple seemed like an unnecessarily harsh way to end a long Wisconsin winter. Adding insult to injury, while going out to pay our respects to the beaver, we found it a mere three feet from the entrance to its ice-blocked den – as if it was trying to make its way back home to safety but met with misfortune first.

A necropsy by Steven’s Point mammalogy professor, Chris Yahnke, confirmed our suspicions that the beaver was mortally wounded by massive floating ice chunks as the Milwaukee River thawed last February. More to the point, we discovered that the beaver was a young female who had never given birth, likely a female from a litter the spring before. (It is common for young beavers to remain with their parents for a 2nd or 3rd winter to help raise younger kits before venturing out on their own.) This meant that the infamous beaver couple had not been split up. In fact, when we returned to the den two days later to check on things, we observed the two older beavers sitting adjacent to the spot where their young daughter had last laid. Perhaps they were mourning for their lost loved one?

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The skeleton of a young female beaver that perished last May in Riverside Park

And although the circle of life can be sad and downright cruel at times, we were deeply moved last week to receive a gift of an American Beaver skeleton. This wasn’t just any beaver skeleton though. This was the skeleton of our recently deceased young female beaver we had collected in the park. Dr. Yahnke was able to help us acquire the skeleton from our young lady so that she could become an education specimen and continue to educate generations for years to come. We’re also excited to share that we will be acquiring the pelt from the same beaver in months to come.

The pelt is in the process of being treated in a special, environmentally friendly way so that it can be safely handled and touched by many curious hands for many years.

Past Employee
Guest Author

Jennifer Callaghan's first career was as a professional ballet dancer, but a lifelong passion for nature and animals led her to a second career in environmental biology. She loves to learn new things and share her love of nature with others. In her free time she likes to travel and stay active.

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