All About Beavers
Famous for their large flat tails and habit of flooding areas by building a dam in a stream or river, beavers are one of the species that is found in many parts of the United States. These creatures are generally nocturnal, and were once hunted extensively for their fur, although this has decreased significantly over recent decades. The population of beavers has continued to decline in North America however, due to the fact that their habit of building a dam can become a real nuisance if they do this in urban or suburban areas, which can bring them into conflict with people.
As the largest rodent to be found in North America, the beaver grows to between two and three feet in size, with a large tail which is around another foot in length. The animal is covered in a thick fur that can range from a reddish brown through to dark brown, and the tail is wide and oval in shape. They are usually quite fleshy creatures with a small head with a brown nose and rear paws that webbed to help them with paddling.
Beavers have a double layer of fur, which has a fine inner coat of short hair, and then a rougher coarser exterior coat of fur, and their scent glands produce an oily substance that is used to waterproof their fur so that they are able to survive their time in the water. One of the interesting aspects of the beaver is that they have adapted to swimming with webbed large rear paws and a large paddle-like tail, but this tail is also a useful location for them to store fat for the winter.
Beavers will only mate once a year, and generally they are monogamous so a breeding pair will usually stay together and breed again the following year. They give birth to a small litter of kits in the spring, and will remain with their parents up until around two years of age. Beavers will usually live for around 5 to 8 years in the wild, but this can vary significantly depending on their location and proximity to human settlements. In captivity, beavers have been shown to have a potential life span of up to 20 years or more.
When it comes to areas where they will prefer to live, beavers are generally animals that will prefer an area with moving water such as streams and small rivers, although they will also take up residence in ponds if there are no streams available. They will prefer areas with relatively soft soil as this helps them to move plants, wood and other materials which they will then use to build their dams.
Beavers are herbivores, and will generally eat a variety of different plants, but especially bark and wood from species of small trees such as cottonwood, maple, birch and willows. They will also supplement this with whatever other plants can be found around their habitat, and will often find their food floating downstream and being caught by their dam, which is one of the reasons for building these structures.
There are several reasons why beavers will build a dam, but they are one of the few animals that can show a distinct preference towards building in this way, and can have a dramatic impact on their surrounding area, as they prefer the deep water that is found behind the dam. If they do find themselves under threat by a predator, they will dive into the deep water, and bat the surface time with their tail to make a slapping sound that is a warning to other beavers in the area.