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The beaver is a rodent belonging to the Castoridae family. During the early 1800s, their numbers began to greatly decrease. They were hunted and trapped for their fur and for a secretion (castoreum) from their scent glands which was used as medicine and as a fragrance. Laws have helped their numbers increase over the years, preventing them from becoming extinct. Below are more fun and interesting beaver facts.
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A beaver's length is 3-4 feet, including their large flat tail. Their tail acts as a prop when they sit or stand, it acts as a rudder when they swim, and it acts as a warning sign to others (by slapping the water) when danger is near. Beavers can weigh as much as 60 pounds. The female is normally as large as or larger than the male, which is unusual for mammals. They have dark brown fur that is waterproof and webbed hind feet. Their eyesight is poor but other senses (hearing, smell and touch) are keen. Their eyelids are transparent and act as goggles when underwater.
Beavers have large front teeth that protrude from their mouth. They never stop growing so they must gnaw on wood often to keep them trimmed. Their ears and noses have valves that close when underwater. This prevents water from getting in their mouth when they chew on submerged wood. They are able to stay underwater for about 15 minutes at a time.
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Dams and Lodges
Beavers only work at night and they are amazing builders - only humans are better. Much of their building material comes from trees. In one night, they can gnaw down an incredible amount of trees with their front teeth. First, the beaver will build a dam. This creates a pond for them to place their lodge (home). The still, deep water protects them from predators, including bears, coyotes and wolves. They also make their entrances underwater to keep predators from entering.
Their dams and lodges can last for many years. They are well-constructed and require much effort to tear down. Dynamite is sometimes needed to tear apart ones that are flooding land.
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Besides gnawing down trees to build dams and lodges, beavers eat the leaves and bark. They also eat small shoots of new trees, water plants (the water lily is preferred), clover, apples and corn.
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The male and female mate for life and will produce many litters. Mothers often raise teenagers and newborns at the same time. In fact, the teen beavers will help with the younger siblings. She will have two to four babies at a time (some can have as many as eight) and wean them when they are 3-7 months old. The young beavers will move out when they are 2-2½ years old. They will find mates and build their own dens in another area or they will add on to the family's lodge.
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National Geographic: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/beaver/
Animal Diversity Web: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Castor_canadensis.html
Smithsonian National Zoological Park: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/NorthAmerica/Facts/fact-beaver.cfm
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North American Beaver image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:American_Beaver.jpg
Beaver Lodge image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Beaverlodge.JPG