Beavers are quite infamous creatures since they are so often used in cartoons as animals that clog up canals and rivers by building large wooden dams. You might have even been lucky enough to have seen one of these adorable creatures in a zoo or perhaps even in the wild.
Beavers are part of the genus Castor family and are part of the semiaquatic rodent family. There are two main beaver species; the North American beaver and the Eurasian beaver. These furry creatures are the second largest rodents in the world with the capybara slightly bigger. Adult beavers can weigh an average of 40 pounds and, including their tail, they can be over 3 feet long.
Beavers do build large wooden dams in the water to protect themselves from predators and to catch floating food and building materials.
Beavers are the second-largest rodent in the world and they can have quite a healthy appetite. But unlike rats, these animals are not omnivores. They are herbivores and prefer to consume plant matter.
These semi-aquatic animals have lots of intestinal microorganisms in their bodies that create a fermentation process inside the beaver’s stomach and allow them to digest 30% of the materials they ingest.
Here is a quick look at the top foods beavers consume to stay healthy;
A beaver’s main food source is the soft inner bark of woody plants. They are especially eager to consume bark during the colder months from fall to spring.
At this time, more than half of their food consumption consists of bark.
Aspen trees are beaver’s favorite food types.
They will also consume bark of other woody plants such as alder, birch, cottonwood, willow, and others.
Beavers do prefer bark but they will also consume the leaves of woody plants they enjoy eating. Leaves are a good food source during warmer months like summer during which the beaver’s bark intake will drop to 10%.
Any type of woody plant leaves is a good treat for beavers including aspen, alder, birch, cottonwood, willow, and more.
Beavers do not just consume the bark of trees. They might also choose to eat soft or even dead twigs of woody trees. They are fond of consuming alder, birch, cottonwood, willow, and especially aspen twigs.
Shrubs and ferns
In the warmer seasons like summer, beavers will consume more shrubs and ferns than during wintertime. They can munch on a great variety of shrubs and ferns and will consume the twigs and leaves of these plants.
Being semi-aquatic, these animals spend a lot of time in the water. A beaver can easily swim underwater for 10 minutes at a time. Some of the time they spend in rivers and canals is spent on finding foods that grow beneath the surface of the water such as aquatic plants.
Beavers can consume several aquatic plant varieties including lilies and cattails and beavers are happy to munch on the roots and stems of these water plants.
These animals will also consume a variety of grass types and they often target crops like corn and beans because they enjoy munching on the leaves and stems of these plants. Their fondness of this type of food source might encourage beavers to build their lodges close to agricultural farms in rivers, canals, lakes, or dams.
Beavers don’t particularly enjoy consuming coniferous trees like fir and pine. They will however occasionally munch on these trees if food is scarce. More often, beavers will target and eat these types of trees to kill them so there will be more room for growth for their preferred food sources.
Beavers will also occasionally consume mushrooms that grow on tree stems or even in grassy regions.
Beavers may seem all cute and fuzzy but they can be very dangerous. These animals have been known to become extremely aggressive around their lodges and they will defend their territory. They may choose to attack to protect their habitat or if they are confused or afraid. Beavers might also carry diseases like rabies in which case they are very dangerous.
It is always best to stay safe when feeding beavers. These are still wild animals and should be respected as such.
If you are feeding beavers in captivity or the wild then you should be careful not to tread into their territory. Set out food a distance away from their lodges and watch as they enjoy their meal from a safe distance. Beavers that are used to feeding times might become quite friendly but it is still advisable not to reach out and touch them.
It is best not to offer food too regularly. These animals will grow fond of being feed every day which can cause them to stop foraging for food. The best way to feed wild beavers is by offering food at irregular times. This keeps them healthy and ensures that they do not grow too accustomed to human intervention.
In some parks, beavers are offered food regularly to help conserve the trees in the area. Beavers can be quite destructive to natural plants. In many areas, trees are covered with mesh fences to prevent beaver damage. By offering food regularly to beavers in the park, the extent of damage to trees can be somewhat reduced.
Beavers, like other rodents, can have quite a large appetite. These creatures do not hibernate and as such do not need to create fat reserves for winter months. They consume relatively the same amount of food throughout the year.
Beaver families can consume up to 300 trees a year but many parts of these trees are used for nesting materials and not just for food consumption. In addition to trees, they also consume a lot of other green vegetation.
To the naked eye, beavers can seem quite destructive.
But these clever animals are very valuable for the environment. The dams they build serves as habitat for many different animals and the dams they build helps water collect so animals will have something to drink during dry seasons. A great many animals are affected negatively every time beaver lodges are destroyed.
Baby beavers are called kits. Beavers are mammals and rely on their mother’s milk when they are small or young. For the first 2 – 3 weeks, kits will only drink milk. From 2 – 3 weeks on, both parents will bring fresh branches and leaves for the kits to nibble on and they are taught early on to consume the inner layer of bark. They will gradually increase their food consumption until they are ready to be weaned at 6 weeks old.
In the wild, beavers can only consume foods they find in their natural habitat. In hot summer months, beavers will consume more natural greens such as grasses, aquatic plants, crops, and the leaves, twigs and they will consume only 10% bark.
In winter months they consume more than 50% bark.
Wild beavers will collect wood throughout the ear and take it to their lodges. These wood pieces will then be used as building materials for their lodges but some can also serve as food during winter months.
A special technique is used to preserve wood for winter months. The beaver will create a muddy floor inside their lodge and store food inside this mud.
The mud will stay cool due to the water’s cold temperature and the food will be preserved for winter when natural food is scarce.
If wild beaver populations get out of hand, they can end up consuming all available foods in the area. If this happens, beavers will move on to a new region that has lots of trees and they will start building a new lodge all over again.
In captivity, caregivers will try to offer beavers foods that simulate their natural food as closely as possible.
They will be offered lots of fresh leaves, twigs, flower buds, and even the roots of trees. They can also be offered grass or aquatic plants. Many caregivers choose to offer lots of crops such as corn and beans because this is a very affordable food source that is easy to come by.
It is important for caregivers to also offer stumps and branches for beavers to chew on. This is because their two front teeth never stop growing. These teeth need to be constantly worn down or the beaver won’t be able to close its mouth or chew food very soon and it could starve to death.
Caregivers should also be careful to offer the correct food source at the right time since beavers consume different foods depending on the season.
Beavers look a lot like otters with their long tails and short-cropped bodies. But these two animals are very different. Otters may choose to feed on fish and other flesh but beavers strictly avoid these foods.
Many do believe that one of the reasons they build lodges is so they can catch fish but this is completely false. Beavers are strictly herbivores and the lodges they build often serve as a dwelling for many creatures including various fish species who use these wooden walls as a hiding place.
A beaver’s main diet can differ depending on the season.
In spring to fall, there are lots of greens and soft branches available to eat. During these months, and especially in hot summer months, beavers prefer to nibble on greens such as grasses, twigs, leaves, aquatic plants, and crops and they will only consume 10% bark. In summer they especially focus on aquatic plants like pondweeds, bulrush, cattails, water lilies, and more.
In the cooler months and especially during winter, the beaver will consume mostly soft bark. They will consume over 50% soft bark because most of their food reserves consist of wood and there are fewer natural greens to be found.
Beavers do not choose to consume all types of wood. They prefer woody types of trees such as aspen, alder, birch, cottonwood, willow, and others.
Some believe that beavers only collect wood as nesting materials or to build their dams for water collection. These animals do however eat the pieces of wood and large portions of their lodges contain wood pieces that are suitable for consumption during winter months.
Beavers will mainly focus on softer wood such as twigs or young trees. They also focus on consuming the layer of soft bark on wood since this part offers the most nutritional benefits.
These rodents will consume a great variety of tree types. Aspen trees are their absolute favorite food source. They will however also eat maple, willow, birch, black alder, black cherry trees, and much more.
There are also some tree varieties that beavers do not like to eat. They will consume the bark of these trees in times of need but otherwise may only kill thee tree types to make room for more suitable food sources.
These animals are often hunted for human consumption.
Many do believe that their foods are pretty safe for consumption but others do feel that there are risks of contaminant exposure that could result in diseases.
If you do choose to consume beaver meat then you should be careful to only consume healthy, fresh meats that are properly prepared to reduce the risk of contamination.
Despite that you can consume beaver meat; these rodents were commonly hunted for other purposes such as traditional medicines.
European beavers were once nearly hunted to extinction because they were used to produce castoreum that was used as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic medication. Castoreum was produced because beavers consumed lots of willow trees which were then transformed into salicylic acid by their bodies. This acid is very similar to aspirin. This product can also be used to produce many different products.
One of the biggest reasons people hunted beavers was so they could harvest the pelt. Beaver pelts are made into clothing items which also contributed to the endangerment of this species.
Beavers are also often trapped in certain regions when their population grows too large. Large beaver populations can be quite destructive to the natural plant and tree life and can result in many animals starving to death. A good balance needs to be maintained to keep beavers from affecting the environment negatively.
These animals are fairly large which makes them a target for larger predators. Young beavers can fall victim to large birds of prey. Predators like cougars, wolves, bears, coyotes, bobcats, lynx, otters, and mink are constantly on the hunt for beavers because they are relatively defenseless and offer a generous foot portion.
Dogs can also attack beavers out of fun or as a food source.
The biggest predator of beavers is, of course, the human race. Beavers were nearly hunted to extinction by humans for their fur pelts. These rodents are also greatly affected by water pollution and clearing forests destroyed great parts of their natural habitats.
Beavers tend to avoid interaction with humans. When they feel threatened they will almost always retreat into their lodges or hide underwater.
It does however occasionally happen that a beaver may feel threatened or afraid of humans or they may feel territorial if you get too close to their lodges. If this happens, the beaver may attack you and their bites can be quite vicious.
Beavers can also get rabies. If a beaver does have rabies, it will show odd behaviors and may seem tame. A bite from rabies-infected beaver can be fatal should the virus spread to a human.
In some regions, it is illegal to keep beavers as a pet but some keep them as pets, especially if these animals were abandoned as kits and needed to be rescued.
If you are keeping a beaver then it is important to know what these animals eat. Their diets vary as the season’s change and owners need to be able to offer the correct foods at the right times.
Pet beavers also need lots of freshwaters to drink and swim in every day. They are semi-aquatic animals and rely on lots of swimming for survival.
Beavers are beautiful animals that deserve the best care, especially since humankind has already caused so much devastation to their numbers and threatened their existence. For the best beaver care, you should offer the right type of foods at the right times. As long as you do this, the beaver in your care or beavers in your environment can flourish and live happy and healthy lives.