Jonathan Murray captured a video of the little brown fuzz ball and posted it to Twitter.
Police in the District were called around 4 p.m., mainly to help deal with the crowd of gawkers. And animal control officers got there fairly quickly to help the critter. Realizing that the crowd of people would “freak out” the beaver, one of the responders got a cardboard box from a nearby store and placed it over the animal to give it a little privacy and help reduce the crowd watching, said Scott Giacoppo, a vice president at the Washington Humane Society, whose group helped rescue the beaver.
How the beaver got to the plaza area outside the Metro stop is a bit of a mystery.
Wildlife experts believe it may have been trying to get a drink of water from a nearby fountain. But it was a “little too high for him to get into it,” according to Giacoppo.
The running water likely attracted him there.”He might have heard it and was drawn to that,” Giacoppo added.
Others joked that maybe he needed his SmarTrip card refilled but couldn’t reach the machines at the Metro stop. Some said he was there to visit the University of the District of Columbia campus.
Either way, his scurrying around as seen in the video was, well, pretty adorable.
“He was a little cutie,” Giacoppo said.
The beaver sighting was first reported by other news outlets, including DCist and WTOP.
Lone beavers are rare, Giacoppo said, even as adults.
“The family stays really close together, so something had to happen, or he was the adventurous one in the litter and said ‘I’m just going to keep walking,’ ” he said.
Beavers typically have one litter a year, and there can be up to six kits in a litter.
The beaver may have had an adventure in the recent heavy storms. If there was heavy flooding in the creek area where the family lived, the water may have risen and he swam away. When the water receded, he was then maybe far from his family.
Officials said they believe the critter may have come off a nearby trail along Broad Branch Road in Northwest Washington and made his way to the stop area.
“He could have landed on a trail and followed it all the way up and just kept walking the wrong direction,” Giacoppo said.
For the Humane Society, it was a rare call, given that most of its service involves helping dogs, cats and reptiles, or dealing with the occasional report of a black bear sighting.
“We never really get calls regarding beavers,” Giacoppo said. “We know they’re in Rock Creek Park. And that’s a great environment for them to survive in.”
Animal control officials at the UDC-beaver scene checked the animal for injuries and found none. He didn’t seem lethargic, either. With quick research online and several calls to area wildlife rehab centers, they were told the centers couldn’t take him because of regulations on taking certain kinds of wildlife.
“We knew if we took him, he’d have to be euthanized,” Giacoppo said.
But they assured animal control officers that he was old enough to be released into the wild.
“He was certainly old enough to be released,” Giacoppo said.
Beavers typically stay with their families for a year or two and then go out on their own, but even then they tend to stay within a six-mile radius of their own kind, experts said.
For Murray, who is a 53-year-old technology consultant and lives nearby, recording the beaver may have been his 15 minutes of fame. A British native, Murray recalled the incident Thursday laughing, saying he noticed it crawling around by the Metro exit as he had come out of the nearby stores.
“I thought it was a hedgehog,” Murray said. Then, he said, he realized the small, fuzzy animal with a “big tail.”
“It was a very unusual thing to see in the middle of D.C.,” Murray said. So he did what many do when they see something worth sharing — they take a video and post it on social media.
By mid-afternoon Thursday, he had roughly 30,000 views of his Twitter video of the beaver. He joked that he and his colleagues at his New York-based tech firm were trying to figure out how to monetize on the beaver video. (No concrete ideas yet.)
In the video, the leg of a young man is seen with bright green shoes as the beaver crawls up the kid’s leg. Murray said it seemed the kid was just passing by and walked up to pet the beaver and let it climb his foot and leg.
One of Murray’s colleagues joked with him, he said, saying “If you saw a rat that size in New York, you wouldn’t go anywhere near it.” Murry lived in New York for several years before moving last year to the District.
His wife said of his fame and popularity of the beaver video that it was a testament to the often bad news in the world.
“She said people are attached to these fuzzy animal videos because it distracts us from the realities of all the badness in the world,” Murray said.
Maybe so. As for the beaver, he was headed back to his natural habitat.
Within a half hour of the incident starting, animal control officers said, they had the beaver out in the wilds of a nearby stream bed. They took him down Broad Branch Parkway and released him into the area of Soap Stone Valley Trail.
On Thursday, as he recalled the incident, Giacoppo said, “We feel good that he found his way back home.”