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'Justin Beaver' gone missing

A toothy teaching tool has vanished from a park in British Columbia, and educators working there hope the fluffy stuffie will be returned.

Justin Beaver, a nearly 10-kilogram, taxidermied beaver, is used by naturalists during educational programs in parks across the Fraser Valley Regional District, east of Vancouver.

Jennifer Kinneman, the district's manager of corporate affairs, said Justin vanished Tuesday.

"We're hopeful that someone saw Justin sitting there at the park and took him away to safety and maybe doesn't know who he belongs to," Kinneman said.

"Maybe by sharing this story, that individual will return him to us in good time."

A tweet issued by the regional district says Justin Beaver is well loved by school children and Kinneman agrees he has been the star attraction with visiting youngsters for about a decade.

"Usually the first question is 'How did he die,' and I believe our park technician likes to tell people that he didn't look both ways before he crossed the street," she said.

The juvenile beaver was found dead in another of the district's parks and because he was such a healthy specimen, Kinneman said staff realized they could use him to give children a hands-on sense of the size and features of a semi-aquatic rodent.

"They're always very interested in the tail," she said.

The beaver, mounted on a round of softwood and clutching a pointed stick, was last seen during an interpretive tour for Grade 1 students at Cheam Lake Wetlands Regional Park in the Fraser Valley.

"They had Justin on a picnic table, as they usually do, and they set off for a short hike to look at some of the natural features of the wetlands and discuss it, and when they came back Justin was gone," Kinneman said.

The regional district has issued a missing poster with a close-up photo of Justin, pleading for the return of the mascot or for information about his whereabouts.



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