PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The High Desert Museum recently welcomed a new animal which happens to give Oregon its state nickname.

A baby beaver, called a kit, who was found alone in a John Day parking lot in May, has found a new home at the museum.

When the kit was first brought to the museum, veterinarians estimated at the time that the animal was only a few weeks old. The beaver was very weak and dehydrated, weighing just 1.4 pounds. Wildlife staff spent the next six months nursing the kit back to health.

“The Museum’s wildlife team was tireless in researching appropriate diet options and providing around-the-clock care,” says Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “Their dedication to providing the best care is exceptional.”

Now the beaver is healthy and grown to almost 17 pounds. She is believed to be female, but the museum says it is hard to officially tell at this stage.

“The beaver is doing well and learning behaviors that assist with her care,” says Curator of Wildlife Jon Nelson. “She is learning target training, how to sit on a scale to be weighed and to present her feet for voluntary inspections and nail trims. She also enjoys time playing in the Museum’s stream after hours.”

The opportunity to name the beaver was auctioned at the 2023 High Desert Rendezvous. The winning bidder has yet to select a name, but the museum says it “must be appropriate for the Museum and connected to the High Desert.”

An estimated 60 million to 400 million beavers once lived in North America. But populations dropped dramatically in the last 200 hundred years, due to the fur trade. Nowadays, the museum says people consider them a pest on their properties.

Even so, people recognize the importance of the beaver and are aiding in the population restoration of North America’s largest rodent by mimicking dam-building behavior, in an effort to restore High Desert area wetlands and rivers.

The High Desert Museum’s overall plan is that the kit will aid in these efforts by becoming an ambassador for her species, appearing in the Museum’s educational talks.

“The history of beavers in the High Desert is a profound one,” Whitelaw says. “We hope to be able to share the new beaver at the Museum with visitors soon to help tell the meaningful stories about the role these animals have to play in healthy ecosystems.”