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Baraboo zoo welcomes beavers

December 27, 2018

Leave it to beavers to find themselves in the middle of a predicament.

The Ochsner Park Zoo was set to acquire a beaver family from Zoo Montana in the spring. But a surprise otter pregnancy at the Billings facility created a space crunch, prompting Baraboo Parks Director Mike Hardy to drive six hours each way last week to meet handlers halfway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to pick up the trio.

Renovations planned for 2019 will bring a new beaver habitat, featuring a pond and lodges, to the Baraboo zoo. In the meantime, the parents — Huck and Finn — are bunking indoors next to a pig. Their daughter Shiloh has moved into the zoo’s new otter exhibit. There she was reunited with otters Curly and Moe, who also came from Zoo Montana.

“We hope to have their permanent exhibit completed early this spring and will be building in-house with parks staff,” Hardy said.

On Friday, hours after arriving, the parents nervously remained inside their carrier compartment. Meanwhile, Shiloh was already busy arranging — and nibbling on — sticks and straw. Better that than the cage door. “We’ll have to keep her extremely busy,” said zookeeper Tori Spinoso.

The parents are about 9 years old, and are on loan from Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. Finn, the father, was raised in a private home and seized. Huckleberry, the mother, was orphaned when her mother was killed by an excavator.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks reportedly “fixed” the pair, but Huck and Finn nonetheless brought Shiloh into the world three years ago. Shiloh was born dead and revived by a zoo veterinarian, and since has become something of a celebrity. She’s the subject of several YouTube videos.

“We will have limited public viewing until they are settled in to their new exhibit, but plan on some opportunities,” Hardy said.

Spinoso noted there won’t be much to see at first, as beavers don’t move much in winter. “Beavers in general seem to be calm,” she said. “They’re going to get very sleepy all winter long.”

Baraboo’s free zoo may be the only one in Wisconsin with beavers on display, Spinoso said. The staff was eager to bring them in, even though it meant scrambling to prepare temporary quarters.

“This creates a little more work for our staff, but I believe this will be a very popular exhibit once completed,” Hardy said.

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