Beavers and Bears in my Backyard: how Dr. Google helped with unwanted new neighbors

Living in the suburbs of Massachusetts, we have our fair share of wildlife. It’s what makes living here so amazing. In our backyard, we have a rabbit family, more chipmunks and squirrels than we can count, an array of birds, the occasional deer, and, of course, a few unwanted critters such as bats, snakes, bees, and the like.

We’ve been in town for 12 years and this has been it for critters – that is, until last week when our little town became wildlife central. It was as if our home had either been transported west in the state or the mammals had their GPS wires crossed and were incredibly lost!

It all began about a week ago when our oldest daughter looked out of her window and yelled “come quick – look out the window! There’s a beaver in the backyard!!”

We thought we either mis-heard or she needed her eyes examined. We don’t live near water. Why in the world would a beaver be anywhere near our house?

Looking out my bedroom window towards our backyard I did a doubletake – it truly was a beaver…and a large one. That flat tail was unmistakeable. It was not running or appearing sick. It was just sauntering across our yard towards our neighbors.

I called a wildlife expert I know and learned they do that sometimes – just wander from one den to another. “You’re luck to have even seen him and likely won’t again”, he told me. “He won’t cause you any harm acting like that. If he comes back, call me – them he may be a nuissance. They usually are not sick when just strolling like that so don’t worry at all.”

The rogue beaver wasn’t our only new issue, though. The next day a black bear was spotted near our town line and before noon was near our schools. That caused a school shut down while the police tried to track it. Thankfully, it wandered out of town not causing any harm and was last seen heading towards the woods. Since then, there have been more black bear sightings a few towns away – the same bear, a new bear? No one knows but it does put a twist on outside events for everyone.

Not knowing much about beavers or bears I did what I typically do when in unfamiliar territory – I turned to Dr. Google.

Bears I felt a bit more comfortable with than bears. I’ve been to areas where bears were common and knew the fundamentals – basically, steer clear and keep everyone inside if possible. If this becomes more of an issue, we’ll all have to deal with our trash differently but for now we’re being told this was a random event. I found this site really helpful in giving me some practical advice.

For beavers, I knew they were in town but didn’t realize they could just migrate as they evidently can. And, I learned that the beaver population in town is rather robust right now, accounting for not only our sighting but a few around town and near water bodies not previously visible with beavers.

In addition, I confirmed that beavers can, indeed, carry rabies, although it is on the low end of all the animals that pose a risk to humans. That said, since the risk is not zero it’s important to consider especially if a beaver is acting odd or if a person is bitten by a beaver.

According to the CDC, rabies is more common from wildlife animal bites than domestic animal bites, accounting for 92% of cases. Raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes are the most common animals to worry about but any mammal acting funny, such as beavers, can be a rabies threat. So, best to avoid any unfamiliar animal in one’s backyard – especially an animal one doesn’t own or know!

Remember, if you or a family member does get a bit from a mammal, call a health care provider right away for rabies advice. There is no cure and the only way to avoid transmission is through a series of injections.

Some sites I found useful on researching rabies and beavers include

Emedicine Rabies Info
Mass.Gov Wildlife FAQ
CDC Rabies Info

So, over the last week, my family ended up with a crash course in wildlife behavior, safety and health all thanks to Dr. Google. Good thing Dr. Google is always open. Last week was one of those times I truly needed her advice – for peace of mind and my family’s health.

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