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Aug 12

Happy Hollow employees help save San José beaver

Posted on August 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Communications Office

Rescue site by the Guadalupe River, near downtown San Jose Rescue site by the Guadalupe River, near downtown San José
When Senior Zoo Keeper Jena Sorrells received word from Kelley Park Ranger Pam Helmke, who had been in touch with nonprofit Wildlife Emergency Services, that a local beaver had a plastic strap wrapped around its abdomen and needed human assistance, she didn’t hesitate to volunteer for the rescue team.

This mother beaver and her young brood recently made their home in the Guadalupe River near downtown San José. The City’s park rangers as well as a wildlife researcher from the Urban Wildlife Research Project observed that the beaver’s movements were impaired by the plastic strap, threatening its survival.

The wildlife experts knew it needed care immediately. Professional animal handlers were a must for a rescue attempt, both to ensure the safety of the creature and the safety of everyone involved in the effort. Plus, having a Happy Hollow zoo keeper or more would be a great addition to the rescue team.

Jena made an immediate call for help to other skilled Happy Hollow Park & Zoo staff. Several HHPZ staffers – Veterinary Technician Monica Fox, Zoo Keeper Chris Juarez and Zoo Keeper Greg Menacho – were available to come out on their own time Tuesday evening, July 16, and lend their expertise to save a beaver in trouble.

Zoo Keeper Chris Juarez.jpg Happy Hollow Park & Zoo’s Zoo Keeper Chris Juarez , Veterinary Technician Monica Fox and Zoo Keeper Greg Menacho
The zoo team gathered around 7:30 p.m., joining the other team members at the river. They set up equipment including spotlights, nets, and a crate.

“There was no telling if and when the beaver would arrive,” said Jena. “We all were ready to wait until the wee hours of the night for a possible beaver sighting since efforts over the previous week had been unsuccessful. Patience was required.”

Everyone had a specific task for the rescue. Jena managed the spotlights, with some rigged in the trees, and was ready to switch them on for the capture. Greg was a netter assisting two wildlife rescuers.

Members of beaver rescue team setting up lights Members of beaver rescue team setting up lights
Both Chris and Monica were ready with “baffle boards,” a full-body protective device that would also help them guide the beaver safely into the crate. Leslee Hamilton from the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy was the spotter, keeping a close watch on the river for any possible beaver movement.

All were mobilized, alert to the opportunity, and filled with a passion to help. And they had to be quiet, and as Greg put it, “not blow their cover” and spook the beaver.

At 9:30 p.m., Chris saw ripples in the water, but thought it was just another turtle. Then a head popped up and she knew right away that it was a beaver. They weren’t going to be out all night this time. In seconds, the team scooped up the 40-pound beaver in the nets and Greg guided it towards the crate.

”The beaver wasn’t aggressive,” said Monica. “She seemed to sense that we were there to help.” The wildlife volunteers went right into action and removed the plastic strap. Greg described the plastic as similar to the tough strapping used for newspapers – difficult to remove unless you cut it just right. “The poor beaver couldn’t gnaw it off,” he said.

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