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Beavers are some of the best engineers and builders in the animal world. Give them a stretch of running water and by building a dam they convert it gradually into new habitat for hundreds of other wild creatures.
Beavers are the largest rodents of the northern Hemisphere. There was a time when beavers were found all over North America and Europe, but today range in North America is much smaller and they are all but extinct in Europe. Beavers are largely confined to regions with mixed or coniferous forests.
The beaver is a light rusty brown animal covered with long hair which looks like thick, silky underfur. It has a thick body with short, strong legs. A beaver's short head is supported by a powerful, flexible neck. A fully-grown beaver averages 82 cm long and weighs up to 30 kg.
The beaver is a superb swimmer but is comfortable living on land as well. Since it is a water animal, its webbed hind feet are used as paddles for swimming. The forefeet are not webbed and the beaver uses them just as we use our hands. It has a remarkable broad, flat and scaly tail which it uses as a rudder in water and a prop on land.
Beavers have powerful jaws and chisel-sharp incisor teeth which are ideal for biting through tree branches and gnawing at the bark which forms its main diet.
The busy beaver
Plant Eating Mammals (Herbivore)
Beavers have designer homes called "lodges". The entrance to a lodge is under water and when the surface of the lake or pond freezes in winter, the entrance is well below the ice. Through the summer and autumn, beavers busy themselves storing up food, so when winter snow comes, they have plenty of food in stock. Through the long, harsh winter, beavers remain warm and secure in their lodges, out of reach of prowling wolverine, wolf, lynx and other hungry animals.
Beavers feed mainly on the inner bark of the higher, softer branches of deciduous trees; birch, aspen and poplar. The bark and shoots of the willow, alder, elm and oak are favorites too. To get to the bark they sometimes fell large trees. Summer offers a great variety of green vegetation to feed on.
Beavers love company and usually live in pairs or groups. Though they mark the boundaries of their own territories and lodges with scent from glands, a number of beaver families and their lodges may be found in the same lake. All beaver families work at maintaining the dam and waterways. A beaver's tail is great for communicating with other beavers. Whenever the beaver senses danger, it gives an emergency signal by slapping ground with its tail, then rushes to the water and takes shelter in the deepest part.
Bringing up babies
Usually, about three-four baby beavers called "kits" are
born in April or May. While the mother suckles the kits, the males
live by the lake shore in a burrow.