"Beaver, Lamar River" by YellowstoneNPS is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/?ref=openverse.

“The beaver told the rabbit as they stared at the Hoover Dam: No, I didn’t build it myself, but it’s based on an idea of mine.”

—Charles Hard Townes

Castor canadensis, otherwise known as American beaver, can be found in most of the United States and Canada and is probably best known for building dams that stop water flow to create a pond.

Charles Hard Townes

Beaver are second only to humans in their ability to alter their environment and, depending on who you ask, are either amazing or frustratingly persistent because of this. Whether you love them because they are cute and industrious or view them as a pest because they eat your trees and cause flooding on your property, here are a few facts about beaver. 

Some Amazing Fun Facts About Beaver!

Beaver have orange incisors!

This comes from an iron rich coating of enamel which makes the teeth stronger and is resistant to the acidic qualities of tree bark.

Tree eaten by beaver
A tree at Belwin after it was visited by a beaver. Photo by Don Wendel.
Beaver gnaw to live and live to gnaw!

The front teeth of a beaver (and most other rodents) grow continuously. The near constant use wears the teeth down and makes this adaptation an absolute necessity!

Because their teeth are so sharp, they use them for defense as well as a building and feeding tool.

Beaver are considered, by some, to be the “sacred center!”

In many Native traditions, the beaver is revered.  For example, Koyukon people call beaver Noya’a, or Ggagga, which also means simply “Animal.” According to the National Park Service, Koyukon Elders “teach that the beaver has a potent and sensitive spirit.”

A beaver lodge spotted at Belwin Conservancy.
A beaver lodge spotted at Belwin Conservancy.
Beaver Create Habitat!

One reason people revere beaver so much is because of its ability to create habitat for a wide variety of other critters. Once beaver have created a desirable pond they typically build their lodge in the center.

Beaver are crepuscular!

This means they are active at dusk and dawn, infrequently during the day. A new word to describe their activity is cathemeral.

Castoreum is an FDA approved natural food flavoring!

Castoreum, which comes from the castor or scent glands of the beaver, is a chemical compound used to mark territories as well as a food flavoring or perfume extract.

Beaver do not use their tails to pat mud or fight!

Beaver have so many amazing adaptations, their tail being one of them. The tail is used as a rudder when swimming, an alarm by whacking the water and a kickstand when they are cutting down trees. If forced to fight a beaver will use its wickedly sharp teeth to defend itself.

Beaver front feet are like little hands!

They use their dexterous front paws (which have semi-opposable little fingers, not thumbs) for many tasks that include carrying branches in the water, carrying and patting mud into the dam and lodge and digging water lily and cattail roots.

Beavers have a split toe on each hind foot!

In order to spread castor oil on their fur to keep it waterproof and to dislodge debris like twigs and mud, the beaver uses this toe as a grooming aid.

The rear foot of a beaver.
The rear foot of a beaver.
Beavers are always fun to watch!

The next time you have an opportunity, settle in and just watch these animals. They are always entertaining and no matter where you fall on the feelings about beaver spectrum, you have to admit, they are amazing!

Beaver have been residents at Belwin Conservancy on and off for many years, most visible in our Bulrush Slough. While their favorite foods at the woodland smorgasboard are willow and aspen, they will take on harder barked trees like maple or oak. During winter months if you look at their lodge you will notice all manner of tracks and footprints over and around it. You may find otter slides, mink tracks, mice tracks or coyote tracks. Thanks to the beavers’ building savvy, adults and kits are safe from any predation. And when spring and summer come, water is the saving grace. Smart builders, those beaver!

To learn more about beaver visit:



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