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Beaver Dies at Smithsonian's National Zoo

  • North American beaver Birch snacks on his favorite food, corn, at the American Trail exhibit.
    North American beaver Birch snacks on his favorite food, corn, at the American Trail exhibit.

We are sad to share that 4-year-old North American beaver Birch died suddenly June 3. That morning, keepers observed him swimming and did not notice any behaviors that would indicate he was unwell. Later in the day, keepers discovered he had died. The initial pathology reports found that his stomach had ruptured. Beavers are unable to vomit, regurgitate or belch, which can lead to abdominal pain and gastric dilation. The median life expectancy for this species is between 10 and 12 years.

Birch came to Washington, D.C. several years ago from the Minnesota Zoo per a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. He bred and produced offspring with his former mate, Chloe, but, unfortunately, none survived. Birch got along well with his other exhibit-mate, a 19-year-old male named Chipper, with whom he shared a lodge.

Birch served as a wonderful ambassador for his species, illustrating the biology, behavior and social nature of beavers to Zoo staff and visitors. Keepers fondly remember Birch’s larger-than-life personality. He could often be seen going for a leisurely swim around the pool or chowing down on his favorite food: corn on the cob. Visitors can see Chipper along with another male, 2-year-old Aspen, at American Trail.