After one year of constant care at the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood, two beavers are ready to live on their own.
The beavers first came to PAWS in April, 2009, each weighing less than a pound. They had to learn everything from how to swim to how to eat.
This week, wildlife workers drove them 90 miles to Thurston County to set them up in an idyllic pond. They're getting a little help in their new neighborhood, moving into a pre-built lodge stocked with their first meals.
Dondi Byrne was the beavers' main caretaker. "It's pretty exciting," she said after transferring the beavers from a travel carrier into the lodge. "You're just nervous to make this release go well."
After a short wait, she got the payoff. One beaver emerged from the lodge to peek out of the water. It eventually moved around to the back to a shaded spot Byrne expected the animals to feel safe.
"For them to be able to be in this environment where they will be able to reestablish a wetlands, they're such an important part of the ecosystem. It's very rewarding," she said.
Neighbors will check on the beavers to see if they're chewing on the Alder trees and building a dam at the running water.
"One of them we know was orphaned as a direct result of human activity," says Kevin Mack from PAWS. "It's our way to sort of mitigate that damage that's been done and get them back out here where they belong."
Not only will these animals do their job in nature, they could contribute even more.
Workers suspect they are a male and a female who could start a family.
Beavers are highly sensitive animals, so it's rare for a wildlife center to successfully care for an orphan and release it. Other rescue groups across the country will turn to PAWS for advice.