08/07/2013 12:13 EDT | Updated 10/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Baby beaver being flown from Manitoba to Ontario for rehabilitation

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. - An orphaned baby beaver who was found on a walking trail in rural Manitoba was being flown to its new home in Ontario Wednesday.

An air charter service was flying the beaver pup from Winnipeg to Peterborough, Ont., so the animal could be rehabilitated.

The Aspen Valley Rehabilitation Sanctuary, which already houses seven beaver cubs, said its current residents would provide much-needed companionship for the new arrival.

"Beavers are quite social animals," said the sanctuary's managing director Howard Smith. "To ensure their survival as best you can at the early stages, they should be with other beavers."

The two-month-old orphan beaver still had its umbilical cord attached when it was found south of Winnipeg by a passer-by in May, said Smith.

The pup, however, "appears in good health" after spending the last several weeks at another rehabilitation facility, he said.

The beaver has been named President, in honour of those who organized its flight to Ontario.

President Air Charter, an Ontario-based company, was in Winnipeg on business and offered to transport the baby beaver for free.

"These guys are interested in wildlife," said Smith.

Most beavers orphaned in the summer have parents that die from natural causes or on roadways, Smith said, adding that he's not sure what happened to President.

"There isn't hunting and trapping going on this time of year when they're so young."

Once the baby beaver arrives at the sanctuary, he will be put on a formula diet. Slowly his meals will shift to a natural feed including poplar and raspberries.

At the rehabilitation facility, beavers are eventually placed in enclosures outside, where they can practice building lodges — an essential skill beavers need to survive in the wild, Smith said.

He added that the behaviour is innate, so sanctuary staff don't need to worry about whether or not orphaned beavers will pick up lodge-building.

One of the sanctuary's permanent residents is a beaver who has lived in captivity her whole life. Smith said just by being placed on an earth island outside, the beaver began to build a home.

"This is an extreme case of an animal ... where when she was given that choice she was able to do what beavers do," he said.

Wednesday's flight is thought to be the first case where a beaver has been flown such a distance to the sanctuary, Smith said.

The plan is to release President back into the wild in Manitoba in two years. Smith said animals are always returned to their natural habitat if at all possible.

— By Clare Clancy in Toronto.