Beaver

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Category: Animal Info Pages


Beavers are the second largest rodent on the planet. They are a mostly nocturnal, semi-aquatic animal. They are well known for taking down trees for food, and to build their dams and lodges.  While they were once extremely numerous their numbers have dwindled dramatically. Beavers live not only in North America, but also in Eurasia in the northern areas.

The beaver has a dark brown coat and long flat tail. The tail is slapped against the water to warn other beavers of danger. Their front 4 chisel like teeth never stop growing, allowing them to use them to take down trees for food and building. They have a double coat of fur, and a layer of fat to keep them warm in cold water. They also have a gland that produces castoreum which they use to waterproof their coats.  They also have nictitating membranes on their eyes to allow them to see underwater. While their eyesight is poor, they have a good sense of hearing and smell.  They also have webbed back feet to help them swim. They keep growing all their lives and can reach a size of 55 pounds or more.

Beavers are best known for their dams and lodges.  They cut down trees with their teeth to build both, and for food. They use the dam as a pool for food and for a place to escape from predators such as wolves and coyotes. They place the cut trees and then fill in the gaps with mud and stones to block the water. The dams are important to other species because they create new wetlands, provide fish a place to spawn and grow, and filter out pollutants and sediment to improve water quality downstream.  Located near the dam is their lodge. Inside will be a room connected to the outside by an underwater tunnel. That room is used to dry off in, and will be connected to the main living space.  They store food outside the lodge in the water, making an area that will not freeze up in the winter so they can exit if they want.

Beavers mate for life, and usually it will only be the kits and yearlings living in a lodge, until they are large enough to move on and start their own families. They are very territorial, marking the edge of their territory with scent mounds to tell other beaver that this is their land. If they notice a stranger coming in, they have been known to violently attack. They will however be less violent if it is a known neighbor that has strayed into the wrong place. 

The history of the beaver has been one of decimation. They were hunted and trapped extensively for their pelts and their scent glands which were used in medicine. The hunting of beaver in Canada led to most of the exploration of that country.  Beavers were driven to extinction in Europe and are only now being reintroduced to traditional waterways. Beavers were also hunted because of their impact on regions because of damming. This would lead to conflict with farmers and ranchers who lost grounds because of the water backup. Sometimes beavers have moved into urban cities located along waterways, such as New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Beavers do make some vocalizations, a whine sort of noise, but are better known for their tail slap.