The beaver is the large semi-aquatic rodent in the genus Castor which are native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere. The beaver has two distinct species, i.e. the Northern American beaver (Castor canadensis) and Eurasia (Castor fibre).
Ater the capybaras, the beavers are considered to be the second-largest line of beavering rodents. The Beavers have stout bodies with large heads, brown or grey fur, long chisel-like incisors,hand-like front feet, flat scaly tails, and webbed back feet. A skull that is more elongated with a more triangular nasal bone opening with a lighter fur colour and a narrower tail is found in the Eurasian beaver. The beavers could be found in a number of freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes. The beavers are herbivores and are known to consume tree bark, aquatic plants, grasses, and sedges.
Beavers use tree branches, vegetation, rocks, and mud to build dams and lodges, they are known to chew down trees for building materials. Lodges and the damn impounds serve as the shelters.
On this page, we are going to discuss the beaver animal, beaver habitat, the characteristics features of the beaver, and also few frequently asked questions will be answered.
Beavers are considered to be the largest rodents in America and are one of the only few s[eacies that are known to significantly modify the environment. Beavers are known to be a symbol of industry and work ethic as they are known to alter the surrounding landscape as a way to protect themself from any kind of dangerous predators. The beavers are known to build dams that reduce stream erosion and form slow-moving ponds. As the dams have its beneficial effects on the rest of the environment, the beavers are considered to be keystone species wherever it settles. Beavers are also known to provide aquatic habitat for dozens of other species.
A reference image of the beaver is given below:
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History of Beavers
Beavers use scent mounts consisting of dirt, debris, and castoreum, a urine-based fluid excreted from the castor sacs, to hold territories and mark them. Beavers may distinguish their relatives from the secretions of their anal glands, and they are more likely to accept them as neighbours. Beavers have traditionally been hunted for their hair, fruit, and castoreum. Castoreum is used in medicine, perfume, and food flavouring, and beaver pelts are a significant source of revenue for the fur trade. Overhunting had almost wiped out both animals before protections were instituted in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The population of beavers has renewed and they are both listed as the least concern by the IUCN Red List of mammals. The beaver is the official animal of Canada and represents industriousness in human society.
Beaver Scientific Name
All the living beaver species belong to the genus Castor. Castor is a scientific name that simply means beaver in the Ancient Greek language.
There are basically two species of beavers in the genus and those are the Eurasian beaver and the North American beaver and each of them can be further divided into various subspecies.
The Eurasian beaver is known to have a very elongated skull with a more triangular nasal opening, a narrower tail, and also they have a lighter fur colour. The North American beaver on other hand is known to be slightly longer.
Other than the present two species of the living beavers, there were two more extinct species of this genus and now they are considered extinct. One of these is Castor californicus, which is believed to have walked and lived in North America and probably went extinct at some point in the Pleistocene which was between 2.58 million years to 11,700 years ago.
The second genus of the beavers is famously known as the giant beavers, which probably went extinct during the last ice age. The giant beavers were a massive creature which grew up to about 8 feet long and weighed about 200 pounds.
Physical Description of the Beaver
The body of the beaver is stout, with a sturdy neck, broad head, small and rounded ears, dexterous paws, webbed feet, and a flat tail. They have a reddish-brown colour that is also waterproof and it is composed of two layers which are a softer lower layer and a more protective guard hairs or the upper layer. The beavers are also known to have a specialized claw on the back foot that also functions as a comb with which they clean their fur.
The beaver has developed a whole set of adaptations that helps them to survive in their natural environment. They have very sharp teeth which are fortified with trace minerals and iron which gives them an orange colour. The teeth are also curved backwards, which helps them to cut down big trees.
The beavers have a broad, smooth, leathery tail and it has many functions such as it helps in preserving extra fat for the winter, acts as a signal to others when slapped in the water, and braces the body against the ground when chewing into trees. The beaver's head, nose, a nictitating membrane which is basically an extra eyelid, and lips behind the teeth can all be closed to keep water from entering its body while it's underwater. Beavers can swim at speeds of up to 5 mph while propelled by their hind paws.
The beaver is considered to be the second-largest rodent in the world which is only behind the capybaras. It can grow up to four feet long from head to rump with its tail being 20 inches long. The beaver is of the same size as a dog and it weighs up to 66 pounds.
The appearance of Eurasian and North American beavers is somewhat similar, although there are some slight distinctions between them. The scale of the North American species is somewhat smaller. It also has a smaller head and a tail that is more rounded in shape. Despite human attempts, the two animals cannot be hybridized, perhaps because they have different numbers of chromosomes.
The beavers are known to build the dams as it slows down the flow of water in the stream and rivers and also they build stable lodges for shelter in the pods which they created. Beavers are very smart and they build dams according to the speed of the water.
In places where the flow of water is slow then the dam which is built is straight and when the flow of water is fast then the dam is built with a curve in it because it helps in providing stability so that the dam does not get washed away. With the help of the sticks, mud, and rocks the beavers build up the lodges. Beavers sometimes build lodges in the sides of the banks when the flow of water is fast from the rivers and streams.
When it comes to the natural habitat and the places where the beavers are found, the North American Beaver has a massive range that extends through most of Canada, the United States of America, and also a few parts of Mexico and Finland.
The Eurasian beaver on the other hand has been found all across Europe, United Kingdom, and also in Central Asia. They are only present in freshwater habitats of dense forests and shrubs, such as streams, lakes, wetlands, and rivers.
Reproduction in Beaver
The beaver is known for being a devoted companion who can form extraordinarily strong long-term monogamous relationships with a single friend. If its mate dies, the remaining mate will look for a new partner. A 2009 genetic analysis, on the other hand, uncovered some unusual details about the beaver's reproductive strategy. They, like humans, can engage in promiscuous short-term relationships when the opportunity occurs.
Beavers mate once a year, between January and March in the north and November and December in the south. The female will prepare for childbirth by making a comfortable bed in the lodge and using her tail as a birthing pad.
The mother gives birth to one to four kits at a time after a three-month gestation cycle. These puppies have a full coat of hair, open eyes, and the ability to swim when they are born. Both parents have rigorous schooling (as well as protection) to train them for the rigors of adulthood. They are weaned by their mother after about three months and continue to focus entirely on solid food. Most children remain with their parents for the first two years of their lives (to assist with baby care and dam construction) and then become sexually mature the following year. In the wild, beavers have a life expectancy of 10 to 20 years.
Beavers in Ecosystem
The beavers are considered keystone animals as their infrastructures help in creating wetlands which are used by many other species and also because of the impact they have on other organisms in the ecosystem. The adult male and female beavers are known to live as monogamous pairs with their offspring. When the young ones are old enough, the offspring will help their parents to repair the dams and lodges and may also help raise newly born offspring.