This story originally published online at the 9th Street Journal.
Around 6 on Monday morning, a beaver scampered across the American Tobacco Campus and hopped into the Old Bull River, an artificial concrete channel that flows through the center of the campus. As the sun came up, an email went out to ATC workers saying that animal control had been called. “For your safety, please do not approach the beaver.”
In a different era, the beaver may have been quietly picked up by a wildlife agent. But this is 2023, so we have the internet for important things like breaking news and pictures of rodents.
At 9:34 a.m., a Reddit user posted a screenshot of the ATC email. “Let. Him. Stay.,” replied another user, racking up over a hundred upvotes. “It’s his river now. Build away, nature’s lil’ engineer. Build away,” typed another.
The beaver, estimated to be four feet from head to tail and 50-60 pounds, probably wasn’t too happy with all the attention. “I think he was scared and shaken,” said Adam Klein, director of Durham real estate for Capitol Broadcasting. And the river wasn’t exactly the picturesque natural habitat that some Reddit users may have imagined.
“There’s no real food, the water is chlorinated,” said Klein. “We also have a high school on campus, and a lot of people walk their dogs right by that river. So we knew we needed to really get him out into a safe spot.”
At 12:16 p.m., another corner of the internet met the critter. Across the street from ATC, Andrew Green, digital and social content manager for the Durham Bulls, tweeted a photo of the animal. “So a beaver showed up across the street at the American Tobacco Campus today,” he wrote. “What should we name it?”
“Is this real?” replied a Twitter user. “Cos that’s one resourceful beaver if this is real.”
Indeed, no one can say with certainty where the mammal came from, or why.
“It likely walked into the downtown area from either [Ellerbe] Creek to the north or the Third Fork Creek to the south, both of which are a short distance from the American Tobacco Campus,” Fairley Mahlum, communications director at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said in an email to the 9th Street Journal. “It is not uncommon to see beavers in urban areas wherever this habitat is available to them.”
Klein wondered if downtown construction pushed the beaver out of its normal habitat. “Those damn Gentrification Beavers!” wrote another Redditor.
No name was officially agreed upon. But everyone had their favorites.
“Chipper Jones played here with the Bulls, and his number is retired. So of course, I’m going to be a little partial to ‘Chipper’ even though I’m not a Braves fan,” said Green, the Bulls employee. He also liked “Wood E. Bull,” a play on Wool E. Bull, the team’s mascot.
Klein initially denied having a favorite name. Later in the interview, he slipped up and called the beaver “Barry,” admitting that ATC workers had taken to it. “We’re in this era of working from anywhere, and we got a chuckle from thinking about the beaver deciding to work from campus for the day.”
But ATC’s newest resident faced a final challenge before it could escape to the wild. State law does not usually allow for live relocation of beavers.
“Honestly tragic,” wrote a Redditor. “He will likely be killed.”
Luckily for the beaver and its new fans, Klein was able to work with the removal agent to secure safe passage for the traveler. “First thing Tuesday morning, Barry was taken to the headwaters of Falls Lake in Durham County,” said Klein.
At 9:03 a.m. on Tuesday, a WRAL reporter tweeted a video of the release. The beaver waded into the water before ducking under, away from the eyes of the internet.
While this beaver posed no apparent danger, Mahulm said anyone who has questions about wild animal encounters, rodent or otherwise, should contact the state’s Human-Wildlife Interaction Hotline at 866-318-2401.
“If left alone, the beaver would not have posed any threat to people,” wrote Mahulm. “The biggest danger to the beaver would be the inherent risks to any animal of crossing busy roads.”
The beaver could not be reached for comment.
This story was published through a partnership between the INDY and 9th Street Journal, which is produced by journalism students at Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy. Comment on this story at email@example.com.