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American Beaver Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Castor canadensis
  • Class

    Mammals
  • Order

    Rodentia
  • Range

    Alaska to Mexico

  • Habitat

    Streams and small lakes surrounded by tree groves

  • Niche

    In the spring, the American beaver primarily feeds on leaves, shoots and grasses, but in the fall the mammal switches to a diet mostly consisting of trees and branches. Bacteria in the beaver’s stomach help it digest wood.

    Beavers build their dams from mud, stones, sticks and branches. The large mounds with underwater entrances provide the beaver with protection from predators and help to flood lakes and streams, providing additional habitat. Beavers will also store branches and sticks in the water near their dams. The cool water preserves the food for the rodents to eat in winter.

  • Life History

    Beavers live in family groups consisting of a mating pair and their young offspring. The group occupies a defined territory, working together to build their dam and drive off other beavers that intrude. The animals communicate via scent and by slapping the water with their tails, a signal that warns other group members to seek cover.

    Male and female beavers mate for life, producing one litter of offspring, or kits, every year. All group members contribute to bringing food to the den to feed the young. Newly born beavers can swim within hours after birth, and they usually begin to explore the area outside their dens with their parents within a few days.

  • Special Adaptations

    • The American beaver's tail helps it steer through the water and also provides a powerful paddle for extra speed.
    • Translucent membranes cover the beaver's eyes when it dives, enabling it so see underwater. The mammal's throat can also be sealed tight by its tongue, helping it carry (and chew) sticks underwater.
    • Beaver's teeth are durable and grow constantly throughout their lives, a necessity for gnawing through trees. A group of the animals working together can fall a tree that's a foot thick in less than four hours.

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2001 North Clark Street • Chicago, IL 60614 • 312-742-2000

2001 North Clark Street • Chicago, IL 60614 Get Map/Directions Call 312-742-2000

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