Beatrix, the cause célèbre Lake Forest Park beaver, has been trapped and is awaiting relocation along the Highway 2 corridor on Forest Service land. She just needs a male partner.
Feisty female seeks male with whom to build a home and have offspring. Interested? Please make yourself available to be trapped. Literally trapped.
The universal search.
Remember the beaver that a month ago became a cause célèbre in Lake Forest Park?
It was caught Tuesday, its life spared, and moved to a temporary home at the Tulalip Fish Hatchery near Marysville.
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Now the rodent, named “Beatrix” by neighbors, waits for the nonprofit Beavers Northwest that captured her to find her a mate. Then off the pair will go to some creek on Forest Service land along the Highway 2 corridor. Pairing up beavers makes it more likely they’ll stay at that spot.
She had wandered the creeks that riddle the Lake Forest Park area and empty into Lake Washington, until deciding that along 35th Avenue Northeast, just south of Northeast 178th, would be perfect. Good home value in this hot market.
At 36 pounds, she is a young adult around 3 years old, likely kicked out of the family home. Parents kick out the teen beavers when they’re “subadults.” No sponging off Mom and Dad in the animal world.
And lucky for Beatrix that she chose an urban area with kids, and their moms, who do all this environmental stuff. For example, at Brookside Elementary each year students release baby salmon into the creek.
Beatrix would have fared differently in the countryside.
About rural folks, “Their attitudes haven’t changed that much,” says professor emeritus Robert Naiman, of the University of Washington’s Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, and a beaver expert. “If a beaver is taking out their prized trees, they might have relocated it. Or just shot it.”
Originally, Beatrix was headed for the latter fate.
The school maintenance crew was blaming her for flooding a playfield — even though the school was built on wetlands.
So a wildlife nuisance control firm was hired, traps were set, and a warning sign put up not to mess with the traps. No relocation was mentioned; a bullet was the intended outcome.
That led Jenny Muilenburg, librarian at the University of Washington and mother to kids attending Brookside, to start a social-media campaign.
“We love our beaver,” proclaimed signs made by children and displayed at the creek. They even named her “Billy,” guessing wrong on the sex.
That led to others moms and dads and community activists becoming involved, and within a couple of days of media coverage, the school district was backtracking.
Still, the city had to figure out something, as along the little creek where Beatrix had gone from building one dam, to two, and possibly three dams, a sidewalk was being put in.
“We are trying to handle this with as much sensitivity as possible,” wrote Pete Rose, Lake Forest Park administrator, in an email.
The answer to the city’s problem came in the form of Ben Dittbrenner, a University of Washington Ph.D. candidate in aquatic ecology, who a couple of years ago co-founded the nonprofit Beavers Northwest.
He is very, very enthusiastic about the largest rodent in North America.
“They’re amazing, they’re fascinating,” says Dittbrenner. “They are keystone species, they’re ecosystem engineers.”
Those ponds created by beavers?
Dittbrenner begins the list of why the ponds are great: They remove pollutants from ground water, they are drought protection, they decrease the damage from floods, they produce food for fish and other animals.
Working with the Tulalip Tribes, over the last couple of years Dittbrenner’s small group has captured and relocated some 40 beavers.
Some were individually captured, some were a family.
The group prefers to show landowners how to live with the animals by putting in such things as pond-levelers (a pipe that keeps a pond at a certain level so it doesn’t flood).
But, as in the case of Beatrix, some need to be moved.
The traps by the school were set up Monday, tied to a tree and smeared with Dobbins’ beaver lure, a paste made from beaver castor, the basis for the animal marking its territory.
“Beavers are highly territorial. If it smells like it might be another beaver, they get curious,” says Dittbrenner.
Beatrix got curious, stepped on a metal plate, and a trap shut around her.
No other beavers have been caught and the traps have been pulled up.
Still, Dittbrenner says that more like Beatrix will be arriving in Lake Forest Park.
Not just in the creeks, but maybe to a roadside stream that you might mistake for a ditch. Kind of the beavers’ version of high-density housing.
Beatrix wasn’t very happy inside the trap.
“She was feisty. When we were untying the rope from the tree, she was charging at us,” Dittbrenner says. “She was pretty aggressive.”
She joined two other females, each in their own raceway at the hatchery — a concrete structure roughly 4 feet across, 60 feet long, and with 2 feet of water.
By happenchance, the group has trapped more females than males.
Dittbrenner says that her feistiness shows she’ll survive better in the wild.
About two weeks is as long as he wants to keep the animal in captivity, fed by rat food, tree branches and bushes.
A home of sorts has been constructed for Beatrix at the hatchery, made of out concrete blocks topped off by plywood board. She can hide there.
If a male is captured, he’ll be placed in a similar concrete block structure at the other end of the raceway.
If, after a while, the two begin shacking up in the same house, a match has been made.
At the fish hatchery, when the plywood cover to her concrete home was briefly removed, Beatrix was a sad-looking beaver, looking to the ground, sniffing.
Hard to be feisty, when all you want to do is live the wild life, in a stream, with a guy.