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Beaver

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Do you want to learn more about the Beaver? Jump to any section or read the entire article about the beaver.

Beaver

Appearance 

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The beaver belongs to the Castoridae family which forms part of the Rodentia order, meaning that they’re cousins with porcupines, guinea pigs and squirrels. There are two different types: the North American beaver (Castor Canadensis) and the Eurasian beaver (Castor Fiber). They constitute the second largest rodent on the planet and are semiaquatic animals. 

A fully grown beaver measures 31-47 inches in length, excluding their tail, and weighs 24-66 pounds. That being said, they never quite stop growing and the biggest beavers can pass the 110 pound mark. Their fur coat is a reddish-brown color, which they typically shed once a year. 

In order to assist with swimming their hind feet are webbed, allowing them to reach a pace of 5 mph in water. Meanwhile, their front feet are highly dexterous, which enables them to skilfully carry objects, find food and build structures. Dives normally only last for 30 seconds, but if need be they can hold their breath for 30 minutes. 

Most of us are familiar with the beaver’s appearance due to its extremely distinctive tail. The tail is large and flat with a scaly touch to it, usually measuring 18 inches in length and 5 inches in width. It is shaped like a paddle and acts like a rudder when the beaver swims. Additionally, the tail provides support when standing on their hindlegs, and also functions as a fat reserve during cold winters. Moreover, the tail allows them to lose or retain heat. Clearly the beaver’s tail is imperative for their survival. 

Another defining feature are their huge incisors, which along with impressive chewing muscles, allow them to chew through hard wood. Their lips close behind their incisors to prevent water entering their mouth and lungs, allowing them to carry and cut branches while underwater. 

Habitat and Distribution 

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The beaver features on the IUCN Red List which enlists endangered animals, but luckily they are deemed to be of least concern. 

The North American beaver inhabits forested regions of the U.S and Canada, sometimes occurring in Northern Mexico as well. The beaver population significantly decreased during the 1900’s following excessive hunting due to its desirable and luxurious fur. Although they risked extinction at one stage, conservation measures ensured that their numbers became fairly stable again towards the end of the 20th century; measuring 6-12 millions.

Similarly, the Eurasian beaver was prevalent throughout the continent before falling victim to the fur-trade. Their population shrunk to 1,200 individuals, only existing in a select few regions in France, Germany and Norway. As in the U.S, conservationists’ efforts were successful and their population measured over a million beavers in 2020. 

Being semi-aquatic animals, beavers reside near bodies of water such as streams, rivers and lakes. They prefer the surrounding area to be forested so that they can collect wood and branches needed for construction. Beavers build “beaver lodges”, which typically houses up to 8 beavers and measures 10 feet in height and 20 feet across. These impressive lodges protect them both from harsh climates and various predators. 

They are nocturnal animals and will spend the majority of the day in their lodges. Even though they do not hibernate during the winter season, they can remain inside their houses for more than 24 hours at a time. 

Their architectural skills have granted them the title of “ecosystem engineers”. Other than humans of course, no other species has such a profound effect on their surroundings. The presence of beavers generally improves the biodiversity and water quality in an area.

Diet

beaver

Beavers follow a herbivorous diet and are not very fussy eaters. During summer their diet is more herbaceous, consisting of ferns, aquatic plants, fruit, leaves and roots. In winter they adjust their diet to what’s available during colder times. This includes various wood and bark; aspen twigs being their favorite, but they will also consume birch, willow and oak, among others. In preparation for winter, some beavers will hoard food underwater in their beaver lodges. 

Mating and Life Cycle 

beaver: top 10 endangered animals in Scotland

Beavers are monogamous creatures, sometimes even retaining the same partner their whole lives. The mating season varies depending on geographical location, but their offspring is usually born in spring, after a gestation period of 105 days. A beaver litter contains 1-9 babies, called kits.

Fun Facts – That We Bet You Didn’t Know

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#1 Beaver have orange teeth.

#2 Beavers actually eat wood.

#3 Beavers are the biggest rodents in North America.

#4 Beavers use their tails to show danger.

We hope you enjoyed reading about Beavers and learned a bit about this beautiful animal. If you want to learn more also have a look at the canadian marble fox, or our other mammal articles.

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