One might think there would be an inherent empty nest syndrome that sets in after your one and only bald eagle flies the coop.
Luckily for Claudia Supensky at For Heavens Sake Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation in Rochester, she’s got Barklee the beaver around to keep her spirits up.
Supensky released America the eagle back into the wild at a well-attended event marking the culmination of a seventh-month recovery from a broken wing. At first, it was thought that America would never fly again.
Supensky, though, never gave up hope on the majestic bird and patiently nurtured the eagle back to health.
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Supensky insists she was not sad to see America fly off across spacious skies, since the whole point of rehabilitation is to return wild animals to their natural existence.
Still, having a bucktoothed baby beaver around the house hasn’t hurt at all.
Barklee was discovered in the spring by children playing on a wooded trail in Graham. Back then, she was just a wee little baby beaver. Beavers have strong family ties, and the mysterious separation from her family unit was a bad omen for young Barklee, so the decision was made to find her a rescue facility.
“There was nothing wrong with her at all. She was just a baby that still should have been with her mother,” said Supensky, who noted that the process of rearing and reintroducing a beaver to the wild will take between two and three years. “It’s very labor intensive to raise a baby beaver.”
Supensky has now assumed the unlikely role of beaver den mother.
For the first few months, she had to bottle-feed Barklee, and the baby beaver lived inside the house in the bathroom. Using the bathtub as her pond, she would take branch and leaf clippings and fill all of the crevices around the tub in an effort to outfit her new home and to keep the water from draining away.
Supensky said it was uncanny to see such a strong set of natural instincts emerge from a beaver bound to a bathroom.
Once, much to Claudia’s delight, Barklee discovered how to work a roll of toilet paper from the wall and proceeded to pull the two-ply sheets off in a single strand, weaving it in between the gaps between the toilet and the bathtub and back around again. Whenever the strip would rip, Barklee would simply return to the roll and grab another sheet and restart the process.
“When I saw her doing it, I said ‘just let her do it. It’s entertaining her, and me, and it’s not hurting anything,’ ” Supensky said.
Recently, Barklee started the transition from the confines of the house to a beaver-friendly enclosure outside to keep her as wild as possible. Eventually, the hope is to be able to build her a full-size pond in which to indulge all of her beaverness. Early on though, the transition has been a bit rocky.
“She’s enjoying it part of the time and the other half she wants to come back in the house,” Supensky said.
The first night that Barklee stayed in an enclosure outside, she chewed a basketball-sized hole through the 1-inch thick cedar boards. Luckily, the hole led only to another chamber of the building, but Barklee was eagerly awaiting Claudia’s husband, David Supensky, when he opened the door for morning chores.
Despite the tribulations, the Supenskys say they are enjoying having Barklee around, especially for her special brand of hijinks.
As it turns out, Barklee is a big fan of stuffed animals. Back when she was a house beaver, she escaped her bathroom den and found a giant bag of stuffed animals in an adjoining room and brought them back to the washroom for a beaver den tea party of sorts.
“She took that whole zipper bag and pulled it back to the bathroom and then took every one of them out one by one and made them hers,” said Claudia Supensky. “She’s just a hoot!”
Barklee’s favorite dolls tend to be similar in size and color to her. Claudia noted that a rabbit and Chewbacca are her standby stuffed pals.
With approximately two years still remaining on Barklee’s stint at For Heaven’s Sake, the Supenskys say they accept any donations that will help them provide her care. The biggest concern is monetary as the couple moves forward on plans to build Barklee her own beaver pond outside. Food donations also are much needed as a growing Barklee has given up the bottle for good and begun to chew through plenty of willow, alder and aspen leaves and branches.
“Everything we do requires funding and we’re a nonprofit,” said David Supensky. “The donations allow us to keep going.”
Additional information can be found on the For Heaven’s Sake Facebook page, or on their website at www.fhswildliferehab.org. The rescue can be reached by phone at 360- 273-0550.