Have you ever heard someone be referred to as an “eager beaver”? Most take this lighthearted phrase as a compliment, meaning that they are seen as fast and hard workers, which is exactly how the North American Beaver can be labeled.
Flexible, tough, and alert, North American Beavers are seen as one of nature’s principle builders. Scouring for mud, stones, and timber, these busy workers transform areas within creeks and streams into shelters, which serve as protection from predators as well as a safe and reliable place to store food. This structure is known as a Beaver Dam.
As one of nature’s builders, beavers come equipped with a robust body structure in order to get the job done. With their oval-shaped body and tough tail, beavers master a high level of agility throughout the water. Although Beavers lack a strong sense of sight, they make up for it with their unique extra eyelid (called a nictitating membrane) which allows them to see under water. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could trade in the swim googles for a pair of those?!
A beaver’s nose is a crucial component of its overall body structure. Since beavers strongest sense is smell, beavers rely on their noses to find food and identify family members versus predators. A beaver’s nose also contains a flap that helps block water from entering when underwater. Like their eyes, beavers’ ears are notably small yet capable of sharp hearing, especially when underwater. With their not-so-subtle sharp front teeth, beavers are able to chew through wood easily, making the job of collecting material for their dams easier. Beavers aren’t shabby rodents and can be found sporting a brown or black coat that contains soft hairs.
While busy workers most of the year, beavers do maintain a more introverted lifestyle. They can be found mostly active beginning in the late afternoon and into the night (as they are nocturnal). Unless in danger of a predator, beavers cruise slowly in the water, averaging 2-6mph. With a good appetite, beavers can eat up to five pounds a day. Their diet consists of mainly wood and grasses, but they aren’t shy to seek out other snacks like berries, mushrooms, and apples.
Considered more on the quiet side, beavers rarely make noise and are most vocal in the presence of danger. However, the kits (beaver babies) have no problem showing off their loud voices as they are known for for their whimpering and whining. The North American Beaver is a believer in a close knit family which is why they can be found in colonies consisting of adults and their offspring. Valuing a lifetime mate, beavers will seek out a new mate if their previous one dies.
The North American Beaver is one busy worker that is extremely vital to the functionality of our watersheds. The creation of dams aids the growth of aquatic plants, provides shelter for other aquatic species, and controls/filters water flow. North American Beavers continue to be hard at work each day using the surrounding watershed to their advantage. If you want to catch these creatures in the mist of their build, venture out to your local stream and hopefully you’ll glimpse them mid-construction. Don’t forget your hard hat!
References and photos: http://www.wildliferesponse.org and the Minnesota Zoo.