The beaver is North America’s largest rodent – it can weigh up to 65 pounds. It is often cited as one of the prime forces motivating exploration and European settlement of the United States and Canada, due to the value of its fur.
Unregulated hunting resulted in a drastic drop in beaver numbers; by 1830, there were none left in Ohio. Wildlife management practices were instrumental and effective in allowing the beaver to return to Ohio and establish a thriving population today.
The beaver has dark chestnut-brown fur, a large, flat, scaled tail and webbed hind feet. It has several special adaptations that are not visible, like valves in its nose and ears that close when it swims. It also has oversized lungs that allow it to retain enough oxygen to stay underwater for 10 to 15 minutes.
The beaver’s behavior is among the most unique and interesting in the animal world. American Beavers alter the existing habitat to suit their needs. Once a beaver has located an ideal habitat, it proceeds to construct an elaborate and effective dam.
Behind the dam, the beavers build an intricate domed lodge made of twigs, logs, and mud, that has at least two underwater entrances. American Beavers live in extended family colonies. This grouping is usually made up of an adult male and female and four or five of their offspring.
They like to eat the bark of aspen, willow, birch and maple trees. Beavers also enjoy the roots of aquatic plants, especially pond lilies. They tend to be most active in the evening and at night. Like all rodents, they need to gnaw to keep their ever-growing front teeth worn down. I could hear this one chewing from where I was standing.
Their broad, flat tail is used to navigate through and under the water. It also functions as a warning device to other beavers. A loud slap of the tail on the water’s surface is an alarm, telling of some type of disturbance or danger in the immediate area.
Beavers don’t just live off the land — they modify it to fit their needs. Only humans change the landscape more. A beaver’s hard work creates valuable wetlands which provides habitat for themselves as well as other wildlife.