Living With Beavers
When Europeans first began to settle North America, beavers (Castor canadensis) were plentiful, but the high demand for beaver pelts to supply the European fur trade in the 1800’s nearly caused their extinction. With the help of reintroduction and protection efforts they have made a successful comeback. Today the biggest threat to beaver populations comes from human conflicts and habitat destruction.
They are famous for their dam building skills used to create their own permanent pond by damming up streams. The beaver is making a comeback in many areas where they have been absent for decades because of development. Beavers feed at night primarily on woody plants although they will also eat herbaceous plants and aquatic plants.
Beavers live near rivers, streams, ponds, small lakes, and marshes. Beavers cut down small-medium trees to dam up streams and rivers to create ponds. One beaver can cut down 216 trees in a year. Beavers live in lodges which include a feeding den, a resting den, a source of fresh air and two underwater entrance tunnels, which allow for a means of escape if a predator enters the lodge.
Beavers, just like people, change their habitat to suit their needs. When beavers build a dam and change a portion of fast moving stream into a pond, they not only create their own habitat but provide habitat for many other species and improve water quality. Beaver ponds are deep enough to prevent water from freezing to the bottom in winter. This provides important winter habitat for many species of fish, reptiles and amphibians. Beavers also create wetland habitat for herons, frogs, river otters, mink, muskrats, raccoons, amphibians, waterfowl, and many species of plants.
Beavers help to protect water quality by slowing stream flows. When the water flow slows behind a dam, sediments suspended in the water have a chance to settle out, reducing the amount of sediment moving downstream and eventually entering the Chesapeake Bay.