Two benevolent beavers may have saved the water supply of Salt Lake City from contamination on Tuesday. The heroic herbivores now fight for their lives after being soaked by the toxic diesel fuel spill.
The beavers' dam stopped an 8,000-gallon diesel fuel spill from spreading into the reservoir in Willard Bay State Park in Utah, reported the Standard-Examiner. The two American beavers (Castor canadensis) who lived in the dam were soaked by the toxic diesel which poured from a leaky Chevron pipeline. The beavers are now receiving medical care at a local wildlife rehabilitation center.
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One of the beavers suffered a worse diesel soaking than the other.
"I found it out of the water kind of sitting in the vegetation," Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer Mitch Lane told the Salt Lake Tribune. "It looked like it was trying to get out of the water and clean off. He wasn't really active. I could tell the fuel was taking its toll on him."
The other beaver had already been cleaned and was starting to recover by the time the second was brought into the rehabilitation center, Lane said.
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"They are doing fairly well. One is coping better than the other," DaLyn Erickson, executive director of the rehabilitation center, told the Salt Lake Tribune. "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."
The benign beavers are thought to be yearlings and possibly siblings. Wildlife rehabilitators are cleaning the fuel from the beavers' fur with dish-washing liquid, a standard and effective means of removing oil products from fur, feathers, and other animal parts.
Concerned locals can donate fresh willow or cottonwood branches to help feed the beavers. The beavers are also being fed spring greens salad mix, carrots, yams and apples. Erickson said the animals seem to have at least nibbled at the food.
Willard Bay is an artificial lake built as a reservoir for Salt Lake City. The 9,900-acre (40 km2) lake was separated off from the Great Salt Lake in 1964 and subsequently drained of salt water and filled with water from the Weber River.
IMAGE: The North American beaver, Castor canadensis (Stevehdc, Wikimedia Commons)