Beavers are busy because they are nature’s builders. They work hard to make habitats that suit their families and wetland friends!
Beavers are built for life around water. They are naturally graceful swimmers, with a paddle for a tail, and large webbed hind feet that act as swimming fins. Beavers can see underwater because they have a set of transparent eyelids that act like goggles and protect their eyes.
Beavers can swim underwater for as long as 15 minutes without coming up for air. Young beaver kits are able to start swimming just 24 hours after being born! Their silky fur is oily and naturally waterproof, so cold water is no problem.
Full grown beavers choose one mate for life. Even though they are covered with fur when they are born and are weaned from their mother’s milk in just two weeks, beaver kits like to hang out at home. The young kits stay with their parents until they are two years old.
Big and Busy
Even though they are related to little critters like squirrels, beavers can get big. The beaver is the largest rodent in North America, and it can grow up to four feet long and weigh 60 pounds. Beavers may live to be 20 years old!
Beavers can chew through trees with their big, strong teeth, and their stomachs can digest wood. In fact, a beaver’s favorite meal is a tasty salad of leaves, bark, twigs and roots. They especially like the bark of trees that grow near the water, like willow, maple, birch, aspen, cottonwood, beech, poplar, and alder trees.
Beavers are called nature’s engineers because they work hard to change the environment. For a beaver, the perfect home is a cozy lodge next to a quiet pool. If a beaver can’t find a quiet pool that it likes, no problem. The beaver can make one. It will collect sticks and branches near a stream, pile them up, and stick them together with mud to make a dam. The dam will stop most of the water in the stream from flowing through, and the water will form a pond behind the dam.
Next, the beaver makes its lodge from sticks and mud. The lodge has a dome shaped top that stays high and dry. The entrance to the lodge is underwater, though, to keep predators from getting in. Uninvited guests are not welcome in this lodge!
When beavers build dams, they create more than a personal swimming pool. They can turn a fast flowing stream into a new wetland habitat. Wetlands provide homes for different species of animals and plants. They also help slow down erosion, and make the water cleaner by acting as a natural filter.
Sometimes, beaver dams and beaver ponds can cause problems for people by making flooding worse. Even when people battle with beavers, though, they have to admire this clever and hardworking critter.
Beaver Believe it or Not!
During the last Ice Age, the Giant Beaver roamed the land. These relatives of today’s beavers reached lengths up to seven and a half feet – the size of a medium black bear!
It’s hard to beat beaver fur for keeping warm in winter. Tall beaver fur hats and coats were a popular winter fashion in the 1700s and 1800s.
Beaver pelts were traded and used as money on the frontier. The cost of a rifle was a pile of beaver skins the same height as the gun.
Beaver fur was so prized on the frontier that by 1830, all of Ohio’s beavers were gone. More than 100 years passed before beaver were seen again in Ohio in 1936.
Eager for Beavers?
Beavers are busy in many of our state parks. The best place to spot a beaver is gliding through the water near its lodge. Look for beaver lodges and swimming beavers in quiet coves at Burr Oak, Findley, Grand Lake St. Marys, Lake Hope and in wetland areas at Punderson and Tinker’s Creek. Check the naturalist schedule at Lake Hope for canoe trips to the beaver dams.