My Bantam Lake

North American Beaver

Written on 06/27/2018

Castor canadensis

Beavers live in lodges, of which there are three types: those built on islands, those built on the banks of ponds, and those built on the shores of lakes. The lodge, itself, is an oven-shaped house of sticks, grass, and moss, woven together and plastered with mud. Over the years, repair and elaboration leads to an increase in hut size. The room inside may measure 2.4 m (8 ft) wide and up to 1 m (3 ft) high. The floor is blanketed with bark, grass, and wood chips. Beavers are primarily aquatic animals, and the largest rodents in North America. They have a waterproof, rich, glossy, reddish brown or blackish brown coat. The underhairs are much finer than the outer, protective, guard-hairs. The ears are short, round, and dark brown in coloration. A beaver's hind legs are longer than its front legs, thus making the rear end to be higher than the front end while walking. Beavers are monogamous, but if one mate dies, the other will "remarry", or seek out a new mate. Beavers are driven away from their colonies usually around their second year of life, right before a new litter is born. They then make a colony of their own, usually several kilometers away, and they first breed around their third years of life, give or take a year depending on the quality of the environmtnt. Beavers usually live in family groups of up to 8 related individuals called colonies. The younger siblings stay with their parents for up to 2 years, helping with infant care, food collection, and dam building. Beaver families are territorial and defend against other families.Beavers are primarily nocturnal. They are only occasionally seen during the day, usually around dusk. Beavers travel good distances from their homes to find food. If they find a good source, they build canals to the food source as a way to float the food back to their lodges. Beavers build dams to slow down the flow of water in streams and rivers and then build stable lodges for shelter. The dams are engineered according to the speed of the water; in slow water the dam is built straight, but in fast water the dam is built with a curve in it. This provides stability so that the dam will not be washed away. Beavers eat bark and cambium (the softer growing tissue under the bark of trees). Their favorites include willow, maple, poplar, beech, birch, alder, and aspen trees. They also eat water vegetation, as well as buds, and roots. Cellulose, which usually can not be digested by mammals, is a major component of their diet.


Source: Castor canadensis American Beaver, Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology