Beavers are known for their natural trait of building dams on rivers and streams, and building their homes (known as “lodges”) in the resulting pond.
They are famously busy, and they turn their talents to reengineering the landscape.
They have thick fur, webbed feet and flattened, scale-covered tails. With powerful jaws and strong teeth.
Average lifespan in the wild is about 24 years.
Beavers are the second largest rodent in the world after the capybara.
There are two species of beavers, which are found in the forests of North America, Europe, and Asia: American beaver and Eurasian beaver.
The American beaver (Castor canadensis) typically weighs from 11 to 32 kilograms (24 to 70.5 pounds) and are 74 to 90 centimeters (29 to 35 inches) long. The tail adds another 20 to 35 cm ( 8 to 14 inches) to its length.
The Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) typically weighs from 11 to 30 kilograms (24 to 66 pounds) and are 80 to 100 centimeters (31 to 40 inches) long. The tail adds another 25 to 50 centimeters (10 to 20 inches) to its length.
They live in or around freshwater ponds, lakes, rivers, marshes and swamps.
Beavers are very social and live in groups called colonies.
Together beaver colonies create dams of wood and mud to provide still, deep water in order to protect against predators such as wolves, coyotes, bears or eagles, and also so they can float food and building material to their homes.
Beaver homes are called lodges and they are made from mud and branches. Lodges are positioned in the middle of the pond, with hidden entrance (from the water), which prevents predators to get in touch with them.
Males and females beavers look very similar.
The beaver is mainly a nocturnal animal – they hunt and work during the night.
Beavers are herbivores, and prefer the wood of quaking aspen, cottonwood, willow, alder, birch, maple and cherry trees. They also eat sedges, pondweed, and water lilies. Beavers do not hibernate, but store sticks and logs in a pile in their ponds, eating the underbark.
Beavers are semi-aquatic species, which means that they spend part of their life in the water and part on the ground.
The beaver has a good sense of hearing, smell, and touch. It has poor eyesight, but does have a set of transparent eyelids which allow them to see under water.
The large front teeth of the beaver never stop growing. The beavers constant gnawing on wood helps to keep their teeth from growing too long.
Long and flat tail is used for swimming and communication.
By slapping the water surface with tail, beaver alerts other members of the group about potential danger.
Beavers can swim 8 kilometer per hour (5 miles per hour) and spend 15 minutes underwater without returning back to the surface for the air.
Beavers are territorial animals. They use musk oil to cover the branches and mud in the dams to mark their territory.
Beavers are thought to be monogamous which means they mate for life or until their partner dies. A breeding pair can produce two to three kits per litter with a range of two to six kits. Mating takes place between January and February, with kits born within the lodge from April to June. Gestation averages 128 days for American beaver and 107 days for Eurasian beaver.
Kits spend their first month of life in the lodges. Young beavers stay with their parents for 2 years and help them maintain the dam and lodges.
There were once more than 60 million North American beavers. But due to hunting for its fur, its glands for medicine and because the beavers tree-felling and dams affect other land uses, the population has declined to 6 – 12 million.
Beavers dam-building can prevent floods as well as cause them: the wetlands that dams maintain soak up floodwaters, prevent erosion and create an ecosystem that breaks down pesticides.
Beavers are second only to humans in their ability to manipulate and change their environment.
The beaver is the national animal of Canada, and features on the Canadian five-cent piece.