GusGus on set with actor Sophia Lauchlin Hirt last month in Ice Blue, a film in production in Alberta. (Photo contributed by Discovery Wildlife Park).

GusGus shows his acting chops

Discovery Wildlife Park

In the upcoming film Ice Blue, GusGus the beaver from Discovery Wildlife Park made like a beaver and swam for the camera.

Serena Bos, the park’s head zoo keeper and animal trainer, said the seven-year-old beaver did his three scenes — getting fed in a beaver crate, leaving his crate and heading towards a pond, and finally swimming in the pond — like a pro.

“The first shot was two takes. The second shot was three takes and the last shot was one take,” Bos said on Thursday.

“The bottom of the pond was still straight ice. There was still ice on other parts of the pond. And of course when he goes in the water, I go in the water, so one take was very desirable,” she said with a laugh.

The film, being shot in Southern Alberta, is about a 16-year-old girl who seeks to uncover secrets hidden deep in her family’s isolated farm where they breed beavers for land reclamation.

GusGus played the role of a beaver being released back into nature and wore a collar around the base of his tail for his swim in the massive pond near Millarville. GusGus was on the set for two days in late March.

Bos said GusGus is actually the only working beaver in Canada, and usually has two acting jobs a year. In December, he worked on a commercial in Vancouver where he sat on a log and clapped.

“He is like the best clapper there is,” said the proud trainer who uses positive reinforcement behaviour techniques to train animals at the Innisfail park.

“His first film job, he was five-and-a-half-months old. He went up to Whistler and it was for an Energizer Bunny commercial.”

Back in Innisfail she expects he will be very much in demand during the country’s 150th year since he is Canada’s national animal.

“If anybody wants to be truly Canadian, people will have to come out and get their photo taken with him.”

When the park opens May 1 GusGus will be available for photos twice a day. Visitors get to meet him and pet him.

“GusGus is very much a snuggle bug, very much into people, enjoys human contact.”

She said park staff also teach visitors about the many interesting facts about beavers, like that their teeth are actually on the outside of their lips. They also live up to phrase ‘busy as a beaver.’

“They are a keystone species. They have the ability to create wetlands that don’t exist and by creating wetlands then you’re creating new habitat for other animals. The conservation work beavers do is phenomenal.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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