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What Do Beavers Eat?

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The third largest rodent in the world and the largest in North America, the beaver is semi-aquatic, with its large, paddle-shaped tail and webbed hind feet. They are always moving around doing some task, thus the saying, “busy as a beaver”.

A beaver feeding during winterA beaver eating the bark of a tree during winter. Photo taken by D. Gordon E. Robertson.

About beavers

They can weigh from 45 to 78 lbs. and have unweighted, smaller front paws that have nasty claws. You really don’t want to get too close to the beaver at any time. The beaver’s eyes are able to see underwater because of a nictitating membrane, which covers the eyes completely. It is also insulated by a thick coat of fat under the skin, allowing it to swim in cold waters.

Their habitat

They live in lodges, which are sometimes burrowed into river banks, or houses of twigs, sticks, and blobs of mud, in streams, or close to the land. They are surrounded by dams, which they make to ensure that they have enough deep water all around the lodge so it will not freeze in the cold weather. This deep water works as an insulating factor.

A tree felled by a beaverA tree, which has a diameter of 20cm, felled by a beaver. Pic by D. Gordon E. Robertson

What do they eat?

This water creature, a herbivore, eats the inner bark, leaves and buds of live trees. They have a preference for the leaves of the poplar and aspen trees, but on occasion will eat the leaves of maple, birch, alder, beech, ash, pine and spruce trees. This gives them a varied diet.

Other vegetation

They are also known to eat water lilies, coattails and other vegetation that they might find in or around the water. They are not fish eaters, and will store tree branches under the lodge for use in winter if other food is frozen. They are an intelligent species and are quick to camouflage their lodges.

Beavers and water

Beavers roam at night and while they are very good swimmers, they remain in the water because they are more prone to attacks on land. The water protects them. In fact, they are able to stay under the water for as long as a quarter of an hour. The water covers them from predators, and they will smack their flat tail on the water to signal the approach of danger. They also use the tail for storing fat.

Beavers are amazing!

Their dams also flood the surrounding forest, which then gives them ready access to the food they want and need. Those tasty leaves and bark from their favorite trees. Don’t worry about the beaver surviving in the cold weather as he has many tricks up his paw that he can call upon according to the climate. And he always stores enough food to get him through hard times.