Facts About Beavers

Facts about beavers, including number of kits, they mate for life, life span, building of lodges, uses of fur and castors, damage caused by dams

Beavers (Castor canadensis) are considered by many as master architects. They are, and have been, throughout the history of our world, valued for their fur. A member of the rodent, or Rodentia, family, being its largest North American member, coming in second only to South America's capybara, they often as adults reach four feet in length, tail included, and specimens over sixty pounds have been documented. Their trademark tail is flat and useful in many ways, such as helping propel through water, and slapping on the water to warn family members of danger. With webbed back feet, front feet that are capable of holding things, and thick waterproof fur, the beaver is well equipped to live both on the land and surrounded by water.

Starting out life, kits, or baby beavers, are born to parents who have probably been together for years. Beavers are known to mate for life, and with a life span of about eight years, (there have been those aged as old as nineteen years) a male and female will produce many litters of kits throughout their lives. Beaver mothers are often kept busy, as they often have both a new litter and a "˜teenage' litter from the year before underfoot. Kits are able to swim almost immediately at birth, but are not usually swimming about daily until about a month old, and with an average litter ranging from two to four kits, and some litters as large as eight, this alone is much work for the mother. When the kits are between three and six months old, mother beaver starts to wean them. With a new litter soon to be on the way, this is necessary for both her health, and the health of the new litter. Only as a kit reaches two, or two and a half years old, and his mother is again expecting does he move out on his own. His first accomplishment that he sets out to do will be to find his own mate. Together, they will move onto a new area and build their own den, or it has been known that an addition to the main lodge be added on, making a sort of "˜condominium' for the new couple. That a beaver is family oriented is obvious.

A beavers den, or lodge, will be built on a stream or slow moving river. Even after seeing one up close, it still amazes one to know that an animal built it. Constructed of timber, commonly aspen and birch saplings, they felled and moved themselves is a feat in itself. Together with mud and stones, they will build a lodge that can last for many years. I have heard that a beaver can rebuild in a matter of days a lodge that was destroyed, but to build new will take a pair about a week for an average sized lodge to be completed. Work is never finished though, and repairs seem to be a constant concern of an active beaver lodge. If you have the opportunity to see a lodge, you may think it is nothing more than a scrapped up pile of logs and debris possibly left behind by a logging crew. On closer inspection you may even be more inclined to believe this, as you will not see any opening into this supposed lodge. That is because the opening is underwater. This helps keep intruders out, and young ones in. Once you do see on though, there is no chance you will mistake one for anything else. They are so well constructed that to tear apart one would take much effort. When a beaver has built a lodge or dam that is causing damage to land by flooding, the dams often need to be dynamited apart.



Besides felling trees for use in building, beavers eat the bark of these trees. This is the main part of their diet. Water plants and the small shoots of new trees, and corn when it is available, are also known to be eaten by beavers. How many trees can a beaver actually fell in a night as he builds his lodge or repairs a dam, or when he is gathering wood for later consumption? No one knows for sure, but a whole grove of trees can be gnawed down in one night by a family of beavers, hence the saying "˜As busy as a beaver'!

At one point in time, beavers became an endangered species. With no laws to protect them, they were literally hunted and trapped to near extinction. With laws today in many states keeping beaver harvests at a controlled number, beavers have flourished in recent years. Trapping of these animals for their fur is making a comeback. From beaver fur mittens to jackets, to "˜hooped' beaver furs as decorations on cabin walls, numerous uses for their hides have been rediscovered. Beavers are again being blamed for damage to streams and small creeks, farmers and landowners battle them as they seemingly overnight will build dams causing flooding, or the opposite, of stopping water flow below the area of the dam. They also have become subjects in their usefulness to the medicinal field, as their castors, or scent glands, are purported to bring relief for many ailments, including the common headache.

© High Speed Ventures 2011