BEAVERSBeaver castor canadensis Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage 1994 (Castor candensis)

James E. Miller Program Leader, Fish and Wildlife USDA — Extension Service Natural Resources and Rural Development Unit Washington, DC 20250

Greg K. Yarrow Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Aquaculture, Fisheries, and Wildlife Clemson University Clemson, South Carolina 29634-0362

Additional Beaver Control Information


Beaver tracks, Castor canadensis

The beaver (Castor canadensis, Fig. 1) is the largest North American rodent. Most adults weigh from 35 to 50 pounds (15.8 to 22.5 kg), with some occasionally reaching 70 to 85 pounds (31.5 to 38.3 kg). Individuals have been known to reach over 100 pounds (45 kg). The beaver is a stocky rodent adapted for aquatic environments. Many of the beaver’s features enable it to remain submerged for long periods of time. It has a valvular nose and ears, and lips that close behind the four large incisor teeth. Each of the four feet Details of beaver cuttinghave five digits, with the hind feet webbed between digits and a split second claw on each hind foot. The front feet are small in comparison to the hind feet (Fig. 2). The underfur is dense and generally gray in color, whereas the guard hair is long, coarse and ranging in color from yellowish brown to black, with reddish brown the most common coloration. The prominent tail is flattened dorsoventrally, scaled, and almost hairless. It is used as a prop while the beaver is sitting upright (Fig. 3) and for a rudder when swimming. Beavers also use their tail to warn others of danger by abruptly slapping the surface of the water. The beaver’s large front (incisor) teeth, bright orange on the front, grow continuously throughout its life. These incisors are beveled so that they are continuously sharpened as the beaver gnaws and chews while feeding, girdling, and cutting trees. The only way to externally distinguish the sex of a beaver, unless the female is lactating, is to feel for the presence of a baculum (a bone in the penis) in males and its absence in females. Beaver, Castor candensis, gnawing a tree


Range of beaver in North AmericaBeaver range in North AmericaBeavers are found throughout North America, except for the arctic tundra, most of peninsular Florida, and the southwestern desert areas (Fig. 4). The species may be locally abundant wherever aquatic habitats are found.











Beavers have a relatively long life span, with individuals known to have lived to 21 years. Most, however, do not live beyond 10 years. The beaver is unparalleled at dam building and can build dams on fast-moving streams as well as slow-moving ones. They also build lodges and bank dens, depending on the available habitat. All lodges and bank dens have at least two entrances and may have four or more. The lodge or bank den is used primarily for raising young, sleeping, and food storage during severe weather (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Cross section of a beaver lodge.

Cross section of a beaver lodge


The size and species of trees the beaver cuts is highly variable — from a 1-inch (2.5-cm) diameter at breast height (DBH) softwood to a 6-foot (1.8-m) DBH hardwood. In some areas beavers usually cut down trees up to about 10 inches (25 cm) DBH and merely girdle or partially cut larger ones, although they often cut down much larger trees. Some beavers seem to like to girdle large pines and sweet-gums. They like the gum or storax that seeps out of the girdled area of sweet-gum and other species.

An important factor about beavers is their territoriality. A colony generally consists of four to eight related beavers, who resist additions or outsiders to the colony or the pond. Young beavers are commonly displaced from the colony shortly after they become sexually mature, at about 2 years old. They often move to another area to begin a new pond and colony. However, some become solitary hermits inhabiting old abandoned ponds or farm ponds if available.

Beavers have only a few natural predators aside from humans, including coyotes, bobcats, river otters, and mink, who prey on young kittens. In other areas, bears, mountain lions, wolves, and wolverines may prey on beavers. Beavers are hosts for several ectoparasites and internal parasites including nematodes, trematodes, and coccidians. Giardia lamblia is a pathogenic intestinal parasite transmitted by beavers, which has caused human health problems in water supply sys-tems. The Centers for Disease Control have recorded at least 41 outbreaks of waterborne Giardiasis, affecting more than 15,000 people. For more information about Giardiasis, see von Oettingen (1982). Fig. 6. Pine plantation in Arkansas killed in flooding caused by beavers.


Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert M. Timm; Gary E. Larson

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage 1994 Logo


Cooperative Extension Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Nebraska -Lincoln

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Damage Control

Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee


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