Two beavers, perhaps siblings, are being hailed as the heroes of the diesel fuel spill at Willard Bay State Park, but the dams they created that slowed the spill from reaching the reservoir also led to their being saturated in the toxic substance.
The beavers, thought to be yearlings, were captured by emergency-response workers and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer Mitch Lane on Tuesday morning and delivered to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden.
"They are doing fairly well. One is coping better than the other," DaLyn Erickson, executive director of the center, said Wednesday. "There is some evidence they did at least sample some of the food left for them overnight. We are doing what we can and hoping for the best."
Lane arrived at Willard Bay State Park about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and found that cleanup workers had already corralled one of the beavers. He loaded it up and delivered it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. He returned to the state park to examine possible impacts on other wildlife and was looking specifically for a second beaver that workers said they had spotted.
"I found it out of the water kind of sitting in the vegetation. It looked like it was trying to get out of the water and clean off," Lane said. "He wasn't really active. I could tell the fuel was taking its toll on him."
Lane waded over to the beaver and found that capturing it with a catch pole easier than it should have been.
"He was more saturated than the first one and not too hard to get into the cage," he said. "The first one was already cleaned up and looking a whole lot better when I dropped the second one off."
The beavers it is difficult to tell the gender of the creatures without an X-ray were immediately given baths, food and forced to ingest activated carbon to absorb the diesel.
"We are using good old-fashioned Dawn dishwashing detergent. It works really well," Erickson said. "We have to be careful about fuels going down the drains. The police department provided pads to collect the fuel."
The beavers were given a variety of food, including spring mix salad, carrots, yams and apples. Erickson said homeowners cutting willows or cottonwoods while doing yardwork are encouraged to deliver the branches to the center for the beavers. Donations are also welcome to help the nonprofit center pay for the cost of helping the animals recover.
Erickson said the ultimate goal is to be able to return the animals to the wild.
"We sincerely hope to release them; that is the goal of our program. It is just so early to tell," she said. "So many things could have happened. Inhaling the fuel can cause brain damage and beavers are prone to respiratory infections."
How to help
O Donations to help care for the beavers can be made online. > wrcnu.org