Recently, there has been media coverage across North America of an aggressive beaver at Three Mile Bend, who has attacked dogs and killed one. However, in our community’s past, there was another famous, but much more lovable beaver, named Mickey The Beaver.
Mickey was a kit beaver, born in the spring of 1939, who lost his mother either due to illegal trapping or attacks by dogs. Mickey had been mauled, possibly by dogs, and was found on a sidewalk near Waskasoo Creek. He was badly scratched and bleeding, and was unable to move his back legs.
Jean Yuill was the young schoolgirl who found him. She took him over to the Wallace and Mary Forbes’ house, which was situated near Waskasoo Creek at the intersection of 52 St. and 46 Ave. Fortunately, Mrs. Forbes was a nurse and was able to patch up the little beaver’s wounds.
Mickey tried to nip Mrs. Forbes as she was dressing the deep cuts, but he never tried to bit anyone again. With the gentle care of the Forbes family, particularly by their daughter Doris, Mickey soon recovered from his wounds and regained the use of his hindquarters. He became a beloved family pet.
Mickey quickly learned his name and would waddle over whenever he was called. He thrived on the bread, milk and fruit that the Forbes family fed him. He also became very fond of green garden peas, although he never learned how to shell them himself.
Mickey was initially so tiny that he could easily fit in a person’s hand. However, he eventually became a great big beaver, 112 cm. in length and weighing more than 32 kg. He was ultimately much bigger than the average beaver in the wild.
As Mickey got older, keeping him in the house became problematic. Hence, a spot for him was created in the Forbes’ garage. Nevertheless, Mickey was frequently in the house when the family was home, particularly in the evening.
As one would expect, Mickey soon attracted widespread public interest. As many as 50 people per day dropped by the Forbes’ house to see him. Mickey never seemed to mind all the intention and often liked to be picked up and cuddled.
There were numerous articles in the newspapers. In August 1939, an article on Doris and Mickey, written by the famous local author, Kerry Wood, was printed in the Toronto Star.
Soon, people from all over Alberta, other parts of the continent and overseas, came to Red Deer to see the famous beaver. Film footage was taken of Mickey. He appeared in some newsreels and later had a cameo appearance in a Hollywood movie.
Mickey got an enormous amount of fan mail. A great many people wrote to Doris Forbes and Kerry Wood, asking myriads of questions about the unique pet. As Mickey’s fame spread, it was not uncommon for 100 to 200 letters per month to arrive.
Doris and Mickey became extremely close. Once, when she was away for a few days, Mickey became very distraught. He went through every part of the house, mewing and wailing as he searched for her. Finally, Mr. Forbes discovered that giving Mickey one of Doris’s old sweaters calmed him down. Mickey would rock gently back and forth as he hugged the sweater. He even took the sweater to bed with him.
During the Second World War, Mickey became a major attraction at the annual Red Deer Exhibition. In 1946, Lady Baden Powell, founder of the Girl Guides, came to visit him and spent two hours playing with Mickey and Doris.
Mickey passed away peacefully in his sleep in 1948, but he was not forgotten. For many years, one of Kerry Wood’s stories about Mickey appeared in the Grade IV reader, “Up and Away”. In 1964, Kerry Wood produced the book Mickey the Beaver and Other Stories. In 1987 and 1994, the Red Deer and District Museum Society, in cooperation with the Kerry Wood Nature Centre Association, reprinted the book as a paperback.
On Oct. 12, 1993, Mickey was named the official mascot for the City of Red Deer by City Council. On Oct. 16, 2004, a life-sized bronze statue of Doris and Mickey, by local artist Brian McArthur, was unveiled in Coronation Park, very close to Mickey’s home.