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Table of Contents
Beavers are one of the largest rodents in existence. They have thick fur, webbed feet and scale-covered tails. Due to their busy life, beavers are often used in idioms about being industrious and hardworking.
See the fact file below for more information on beavers or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Beavers worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Habitat, Anatomy and Life Cycle
- Common Name: Beaver
- Scientific Name: Castor canadensis (American beaver), Castor fiber (Eurasian beaver)
- Type: Mammals
- Diet: Herbivores
- Group Name: Colony
- Average Lifespan in the Wild: Up to 24 years
- Average Weight: 60 lbs
Description and Anatomy
- Beavers are the second largest rodent after the capybara (a rodent native to South America).
- Males and females are almost identical in size.
- They have a head-body length of 31–47 in (80–120 cm), with a long 9.8 – 19.7 in (25 – 50 cm) tail.
- They can weigh anything from 24–66 lb (11–30 kg).
- Beavers have stout bodies with large heads, brown or gray fur, hand-like front feet, webbed back feet, and a big tail.
- Their muscular tail is flat and scaly and has several functions. It provides support when the beaver is upright, acts as a rudder when swimming, and stores fat for winter.
- Beavers can only stroll on land, but they are very good swimmers, comfortably swimming at 5.0 mph (8 km/h).
- The beaver’s front feet are nimble, allowing them to hold food, grasp objects, and dig.
- Beaver’s teeth are orange in color due to the iron-rich protective coating of enamel on them. The teeth grow continuously throughout their life because daily use wears them down constantly.
- Beavers’ coats are thick with up to 148,000 hairs/in2 (23,000 hairs/cm2). This functions to keep them warm, help them float in water, and to protect them against predators. They do, however, molt every summer.
- Beavers have poor eyesight and a set of transparent eyelids, enabling them to see underwater.
- Beavers have a good sense of hearing, smell, and touch.
- They are also good divers able to hold their breath for as long as 15 minutes underwater. Their dives are, however, usually at most five or six minutes.
- These clever little creatures can carry things while walking on their hind legs, which is how they gather sticks and twigs for their nests.
Habitat and Diet
- Beavers need water to survive. They live in lakes, ponds, marshes, and rivers. Europe and Asia were once inhabited by Eurasian beavers. Now, scarce populations are seen in southern Scandinavia, France, Germany, Poland, and Russia.
- Beavers construct their homes near trees and shrubs as they need sticks and twigs as building materials for the dams they make. These dams restrict the flow of water and create ponds where they live.
- These cleverly built lodges act as shelters from both the elements and predators.
- Beavers dig burrows into the banks if no construction material is available.
- Beavers can cut down trees 6 inches (15 cm) thick. It might take a while, but they are tenacious creatures with powerful jaws and strong teeth adapted for the task.
- They also use rocks and mud when constructing their shelter, carrying rocks tucked under their chin if their paws are already full of other material.
- To build a dam, beavers first stack relatively long, thick logs between banks. Heavy rocks hold down the poles, which are then packed with shrubs, grass, and mud. Beavers continue to pile on building material until the dam slopes toward the flowing water.
- Beavers dams can range in height from 20 cm (8 in) to 3 m (10 ft) tall and can stretch from 0.3 m (1 ft) to several hundred meters long. The entrance is usually underwater.
- Beavers are herbivores, which means they eat leaves, roots, bark, willow, and aquatic plants.
- During spring and summer, beavers mainly feed on abundant herbaceous plant material such as leaves, roots, herbs, ferns, water lilies, and grasses. During fall and winter, they eat more woody plants and bark.
Reproduction and Young
- Beavers become sexually mature at around 20 months old and are monogamous.
- They have one litter a year of 2 to 4 babies after a three or four-month gestation. The newborns are called kits.
- The kits are born with a full fur coat and open their eyes within a few days.
- Mothers are the primary caretakers, with kits feeding from the mother, while the fathers maintain the territory, sometimes with the assistance of older siblings from a previous litter.
- Kits spend the first month or two in the lodge, suckling for up to three months, although they can eat solid food by the second week.
- They rely on their parents and older siblings to bring solid food to them. They are predated by dogs, foxes, and birds of prey while young and small, so they do not venture far.
- When old enough, young beavers will help their parents repair the dams and lodges. They may also help raise newly born offspring.
- At the age of two, kits usually leave their parent’s lodge, build their own, and find a mate.
- Beavers are very social animals. They live in groups called colonies. A monogamous couple and their kits inhabit each lodge.
- Although beavers are sometimes active during the day, they are primarily nocturnal, so the best time to observe them is in the evenings.
- The waking hours are busy with beavers building and maintaining their lodges and dams and looking for food.
- During winter, beavers do not hibernate but tend to become less active.
- Despite living in colonies, beavers are territorial animals. They mark their territories with castoreum, an odorous substance they secrete from the castor sac.
- They communicate through vocalizations, scent marking, body language, and slapping of tails against the water.
Communication between Beavers
- Beavers greet family members with whines, while kits will squeak or mew.
- When on the defense, beavers growl or hiss and gnash their teeth.
- They also use tail slaps, which involve hitting the water’s surface with their tail to serve as an alarm signal, thereby warning other beavers of a potential threat. Beavers then retreat to their lodge or deeper water.
- In 1988, the estimated population of American beavers was around 400 million, but recent studies show that less than 12 million remain in the wild.
- The decline was caused by excessive hunting. Beaver fur was extensively used in the manufacture of hats but is now more expensive and used for collars and trimming.
- Castoreum from beaver glands is used as a tincture in some perfumes and medicinally for anxiety and insomnia.
- In the United States, beaver hunting and trapping are regulated nationally. According to the IUCN Red List, beavers are of the least concern, yet some areas are designated as protected.
- Beavers are not directly harmful to humans but can transmit illnesses like tularemia and giardiasis, known as beaver fever.
- The habitats created by beavers are typically beneficial to other wildlife nearby but sometimes damaging to humans.
- Beaver behavior may cause the following:
- Dams made of extensive piles of branches and mud may block off water flow.
- Flooding of homes and irrigation systems.
- Destruction of valuable trees.
- Total blockage of waterways.
This fantastic bundle includes everything you need to know about beavers across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Beaver worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Beavers, which are one of the largest rodents in existence. They have thick fur, webbed feet, and scale-covered tails. Due to their busy life, beavers are often used in idioms about being industrious and hardworking.
Complete List of Included Worksheets
- Beavers Facts
- Just Beavers
- Beaver Body
- Beaver Style
- Fact or Bluff
- I’m a Beaver
- The Big Brown Beaver
- Two Beavers
- Busy Beaver
- Ecosystem Engineer
- The Nuisance Beaver
Frequently Asked Questions
Are beavers intelligent?
Beavers are highly intelligent creatures. They choose the location of their shelter wisely and construct a strong shelter to live in. They are also extremely gentle.
Do beavers make a good pet?
Beavers do not make great pets. Although they are both gentle and clever, they are not easy to train, and they need a specific environment to thrive. They also chew every piece of shrubbery and wood they find because that is in their nature and is what they do in the wild, so any garden and house would soon show signs of beaver destruction.
What are beavers afraid of?
Beavers’ predators include coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and owls. Sadly humans are also a threat to beavers as they hunt them for their fur and meat. Beavers avoid
smells like garlic, ammonia, and mothballs.
What is a beaver’s favorite food?
Beavers like to eat water plants such as water lilies and cattails. They also eat the bark and twigs of several trees, including poplar, aspen, willow, and maple.
How do beavers build their shelters?
Beavers stack up long, thick logs with heavy rocks holding down the logs. They then pack shrubbery and mud between the logs piling on more and more material until the dam slopes in a direction facing upstream. Beaver dams are very strong and effective and are repaired as often as necessary.
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Link will appear as Beavers Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 29, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
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