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Species Description

American Beaver

Castor canadensis


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Castoridae

Description

Fur on the upper parts is a rich reddish brown in the winter and darker in the summer. The belly is a pale buff gray. This is the largest rodent in North America, with an average length of 0.9 - 1.2 m (3 - 4 ft) and a weight of 13.6 - 31.8 kg (30 - 70 lbs). Beavers are stocky in body shape, with short legs and webbed hind feet. The naked tail is very wide, flat, and scaly.

Life Cycle

The Beaver breeds in January and February, and 1 - 6 young (called kits) are born 110 - 120 days later. Kits are born with fur, open eyes, and incisor teeth already erupted. Young are weaned in 6 - 8 weeks. They remain with the parents until they become sexually mature at 2 years of age. Beavers live as a family unit or colony of 4 - 12 individuals, consisting of adults, yearlings, and kits. A mated pair is monogamous (keeping only one mate) and may live together for 10 - 15 years.

Natural History

Fabled in legend and lore, the Beaver is renowned as an industrious builder of dams to maintain a deep water pool around its lodge. The lodge is basically a round structure, made of branches sealed with mud and rising above the water surface. An underwater entrance leads to a cavity in the middle of the lodge above the water line. The lodge provides protection from predators and weather, and acts as a nursery for young. The Beaver is generally active at night when it waddles up stream banks in search of leaves, twigs, the inner bark of sapling trees, and herbaceous plants to eat. Depending on season and weather conditions, a Beaver may be seen in the daytime as well. When danger threatens, a Beaver will slap the surface of the water with its tail, producing a loud sound that serves to warn other Beavers. Many a late-night fisherman has been startled by the loud splash of a Beaver hitting the water's surface. The main predators of Beavers are the American alligator, the bobcat, and the coyote. To escape a potential predator, a Beaver can remain underwater for 15 - 20 minutes. Beavers can influence the landscape in both positive and negative ways. They can be considered pests when they cut down valuable forest trees or feed on crops, but they can also benefit waterfowl and fish by creating ponds. Beavers will also excavate dens out of the banks of rivers or streams. Sometimes they become a nuisance by damming up man-made drainage ditches, culverts, and canals.

Range

American Beaver Region Map Beavers were once found throughout the United States, except in the Great Basin and Mojave deserts of the west. However, the intensive trapping in the 1800s depleted populations severely. Restocking efforts have been successful in most areas. In Georgia, the Beaver can be found statewide.

Conservation Status

In Georgia, the hunting/trapping season for Beavers is year-round.

Similar Species

The smaller Muskrat has a scaly tail which is flattened on the sides. The introduced Nutria has a round tail and is grayish-brown.