Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Animals: Beaver

The beaver lives by rivers where there are trees nearby. Beavers can be found from northern Canada all the way down to the southern United States.


The beaver is the largest rodent in North America. A full grown beaver can weigh from 16 to 32 kg. It can be from 60 to 80 cm. in length. Beavers has long sharp front teeth.

A beaver's tail is flat (about 30 cm. long) and covered with scales. The beaver uses the tail to steer when swimming or for balance when sitting on land. If an enemy is near, the beaver slaps its tail on the water to warn other beavers. The tail is not used to plaster mud on dams or lodges.

The beaver's legs are short. It is not able to move quickly on land. But the beaver is a strong swimmer under water and on the surface of the water. The large hind feet are webbed. The small front paws are not.

The front feet have sharp claws. The beaver uses the claws for digging up mud and stones. The beaver uses its front feet for carrying mud and branches. With its back feet the beaver spreads a waterproofing oil on its fur. The beaver's fur has to be oily to keep the animal waterproof.

The beaver has strong, sharp front teeth for cutting down trees. It chews and chews around the tree trunk till the tree falls down. The bark and leaves are eaten. The branches are used for building a dam and a home.

Beavers are hard workers. They work together to build the dam and the home. They make a pond by building the dam across a stream. The dam holds back the water and a deep pond is formed. Then the beavers build their home in the middle of the pond where they are safe from most enemies.

The beaver is well adapted for swimming. It can see well under water. Over its small eyes there is a thin see-through lid. The beaver's nostrils and ears can be closed when swimming .

The front teeth are very strong and sharp for gnawing and cutting down trees. Beavers pull smaller branches with their teeth. Bigger logs are rolled down to the pond with their front paws or their nose or the top of their heads.


The beaver lives near wooded streams. Beavers are found in most parts of Canada (the north, the west and on the prairies). In the rest of North America the beaver's range extends from Alaska to the southern United States.

The beaver builds a home (lodge) made of mud and branches. The inside of the beaver's home consists of one or more underwater passages, a feeding area and a dry area for the nest. Most lodges are about 5 metres wide and 2 metres high. There is a fresh air hole at the top (roof) of the lodge.

The trees are dragged to the water. A dam is made of branches, mud and rocks. This dams holds back the water amd a deep pond is formed. The pond must be deep enough so water will not freeze to the bottom.

Mud is plastered on the outside of the lodge to make it strong. This prevents enemies from breaking in. The mud also helps keep the inside warm during the winter.

Beavers may also build dens or burrows along river banks. Sometimes they live in these bank burrows while they are building their lodge. The burrows are also a place to hide from enemies.

In the winter the beaver family stays inside a lodge. There can be six or more in the lodge including parents, yearlings and kits. They do not hibernate. Enough food must be stored to last all winter. The beaver's food pile of twigs and branches is at the bottom of the pond close to the entrance to the lodge. During the winter the beaver dives down to get some food.


Beavers eat the bark and leaves of trees . Their favorite tree is the aspen. Beavers also eat grasses, berries and waterplants.


Beavers mate for life. Early in the summer ( May or June ) the female has a litter of three or four kits. The newborn have fur, teeth and can see and walk. The babies remain inside for about a month. The yearlings act as babysitters for the new litter. During their second year, young beavers help their parents repair the dam and lodge and gather food for winter. Young beavers stay with their parents until they are two years old.


In the winter the beaver family stays inside the lodge. They do not hibernate. The beavers keep a pile of branches at the bottom of the pond. During the winter the hungry beaver dives down to get food.


Wolves, coyotes, bears, the wolverine and lynx are enemies of the beaver. Beavers can be easily caught when they are on land. River otters have been known to slip into the lodge and kill the kits. In the winter when the water is frozen, predators can walk right up to the lodge. These animals may try to break into the lodge.


Indians called the beaver the "sacred centre" of the land because beavers create habitats for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. Beavers can change the landscape by damming streams. Much of the flooded area becomes wetlands. Many endangered and threatened animals rely on the wetlands for their survival.

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