Be a beaver believer

Beaver (Photo by Makedocreative/Wikimedia Commons)

Beaver (Photo by Makedocreative/Wikimedia Commons)

April 7, 2016 | by Wendy Ho

Aside from the long list of initiatives celebrated today, April 7 is also a day to celebrate beavers!

For starters, here’s a little beaver-inspired anecdote from our Alberta office:

“There was once a young man who walked to work every day. One morning he saw a beaver in the river. He mentioned this in the staff meeting and said, 'This morning I saw a beaver walking to work!'

A beaver carries a willow branch across the water. (Photo by Steve Hillebrand, courtesy of USFWS)

A beaver carries a willow branch across the water. (Photo by Steve Hillebrand, courtesy of USFWS)

Everyone looked at him in amazement, and laughed. He then sheepishly realized his mistake and said again, ’This morning on my walk to work, I saw a beaver.’ That was far more believable. And everyone stopped laughing.”

Although beavers may not have office jobs, they are known to be hard workers. All jokes aside, how much do you know about North America’s largest rodent? Here are 11 fun facts to let you beef up your beaver knowledge:

Physiology and behaviour

Beavers, sometimes referred to as ecosystem engineers, are second to humans for their ability to change habitats. (Tweet this!)
Beaver's footprints are rarely seen (except in muddy areas) due to the tail that drags behind, covering their tracks. (Tweet this!)
Beavers can hold their breath up to 15 minutes underwater, due to specialized lungs and a lowered metabolism. (Tweet this!)
No need for fluoride. Beavers' enamel is iron-rich (hence the orange colour), which gives beavers the gnaw power they need for cutting wood. (Tweet this!)
Both a rudder and a gait stabilizer, the paddle-shaped tail of a beaver helps it navigate water and land. (Tweet this!)

A damming construction

Dome-shaped and underwater entrances are two basic features of a beaver lodge. (Tweet this!)
Beaver dams function as speed bumps for streams. By slowing down the speed of moving water they create deeper water. (Tweet this!)
At 850 metres long, the beaver dam in Wood Buffalo National Park that straddles AB and the NWT can be seen from space! (Tweet this!)
A beaver's dam both stores and delivers H2O! It helps to maintain stream flows, especially during droughts and helps store water during floods. (Tweet this!)
Beavers are native to Canada and have been considered Canada's national icon for 300 years. (Tweet this!)
Beavers have bounced back from historic over-hunting for fur and meat, thanks to rehabilitation and conservation of wetlands, forests and floodplain habitats. (Tweet this!)


Wood duck (Photo by Frank Vassen/Wikimedia Commons)

Wood duck (Photo by Frank Vassen/Wikimedia Commons)

Truly, the importance of beavers to other wildlife should not be undermined. Beavers work hard at making ponds and wetlands, which are really important for waterfowl (nesting and feeding) and many types of fishes. Take wood ducks for example. The beaver pond not only creates open water/wetland habitat for the ducks, but the flooding often kills large trees in which the wood ducks (cavity dwellers) nest. For fish, sometimes the pond is the only deep water that remains during low water levels.

So for all the things beavers do to contribute to healthy watersheds, there is a need on our end to help maintain wetland habitats for the well-being of this species in return!

Check out some of our beaver stories from the archive and see how this incredibly industrious species is a gatekeeper of our landscapes and watersheds. Happy International Beaver Day!

Beavers: An inconvenient species?
The beaver: Nature’s engineer and…archeologist?
Leave it to beaver: Celebrating Alberta's natural legacy

Wendy Ho (Photo by NCC)

About the Author

Wendy Ho is Nature Conservancy of Canada's digital content manager.

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