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North American Beaver
Beaver Printout

The North American beaver, Castor canadensis, is a large, web-footed, semi-aquatic rodent with brown fur and a wide, flat, dark tail. The tail acts as a rudder while swimming, as a prop for standing upright, as a lever when dragging tree logs, and as a noise maker for producing a warning signal when it is slapped on the water. The fingers have long claws, and the legs have webbed feet and claws. The beaver has a large, wide, head. It has sharp, renewable, self-sharpening, enameled teeth that can cut through wood and fell a tree.

The adult beaver weighs about 20 kg (44 pounds), but can be as large as 35 kg (77 pounds). It is about 30 cm (12 in) tall, and its tail is about 25 cm (about 10 in) long. The beaver is the largest rodent in North America. Its life span in the wild is about 20 years.

HABITAT
Beavers live by rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes. They are one of the few animals that alter their environment in a large-scale way in order to provide themselves living space and protection. Beavers build dams that change the course of streams and create ponds. They build dams and lodges using sticks, bark (from deciduous trees), mud, and logs (that they fell themselves). The presence of pointed tree stumps is a good indication that there are beavers living nearby.

To create a habitat, beavers build a dam in a stream, flooding an area of the woods and creating a pond in which the beaver can build a lodge. This beaver lodge or den is located away from shore and has an underwater entrance. This makes it difficult for most predators to enter the lodge. In winter, the water around the lodge usually freezes, protecting the beaver almost completely. Some beavers live by rivers and do not need to build dams. Instead, they live in burrows that they build on the river bank.

Each beaver pond is inhabited by one beaver family: two adults and usually 2-4 kits (very young beavers) and the yearlings from the previous year's litter. When the food supply around the beaver's home is exhausted, they move to another site and start again.

REPRODUCTION
Beaver mating occurs in January or February. The kits are born in early spring, from April through June. When young beavers reach their second summer, they take on adult duties, building and maintaining the lodge and the dams. They reach adulthood during their second winter and move away to find a mate and build a lodge of their own.

FOOD
The beaver eats aquatic plants (including pond weeds, water-lilies, and cattails) and the cambium (the soft tissue in which new wood and bark grow) of hardwood trees, including birch, aspen, willow, cottonwood, and alder.

PREDATORS
Some of the animals that prey upon beavers include foxes, coyotes, wolves, lynx, otters, weasels, hawks, eagles and owls.

NUMBERS
After many years of over-trapping for its valuable fur, the beaver almost went extinct in the 1930's. It is now making a comeback since trapping is limited.

SYMBOLISM
Since 1975, Castor Canadensis has been an official emblem of Canada.

More information on the beaver from the Wildlife Habitat Advocates of Canada.

Related Pages:


Beaver Info/Coloring Printout

The beaver is a large rodent that builds dams and dens.
bvr thumbnail

Beaver Coloring Printout

A large black-and-white printout of the North American beaver.


Pond Animals

Many animals live in, on, and around ponds.


Rodents

Rodents are relatively small, prolific mammals whose front two top teeth continually grow.


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