Critter Spotlight: Beaver: Castor canadensis
Beavers are the world's second-largest rodents growing to sizes up to four feet. This may leave you asking what the world's largest rodent is, I will leave that up to you to find out, hint: it lives in South America!
Beavers are a peculiar-looking mammal. They have a distinct, long, flat tail, which is covered in scales. Their tail helps with steering in the water, is used as a kickstand to help beavers stay balanced while chewing on trees, and is slapped on water or land to warn other beavers of danger. Beavers have very large, orange-tinted front teeth. The orange tint comes from extra iron which provides the teeth with strength. Beaver teeth never stop growing, but never get too big due to their consistent tree chewing. Beavers are also equipped with webbed back feet. This adaptation helps the beaver to be an excellent swimmer.
There are two species of beaver. Castor canadensis is the species native to North America. The other species Castor fiber, is found in Europe and northern Asia.
Beavers are herbivores. They consume various types of vegetation as well as small branches and tree bark. They have several predators including otters, bears, wolves, and even humans. In the past, humans hunted beavers heavily for their fur and tails. Now they are protected and their numbers have increased. They do still face some issues due to habitat loss and water pollution.
Beavers are friends to watersheds. Beaver dams help to create still ponds where water is less turbulent for animal activity. Beaver dams also help to filter water, creating a more useable water source for watershed animals. Dams have also been known to help the spread of wildfires because they keep the area around the dam wet.
If you are interested in seeing beaver activity up close and in person, visit the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge in Coventry, RI. My girls and I took a trip there yesterday and here are some of the amazing photos of what beavers have done to change the landscape there.
Nothing beats seeing wildlife activity in person. The weather has been absolutely perfect for nature hikes! Get out and explore!
I hope you enjoyed learning some facts about the world's second-largest rodent. Have a great day Watershed Explorers!