Evolution is an amazing thing and for the beaver, it has taken millions of years. Once almost 8 feet long some thousans of years ago, now the beaver, even though it continues to grow all its life, it will be lucky if it reaches four feet in length and hardly more than 65 pounds.
If it reaches 10 years old, it’s pushing its limit
An adult beaver will have webbed hind feet that could measure a good 10 inches long and about half that wide. Of course this is a big advantage for a rodent that spends most of its time in the water.
As to the food of a beaver, it is the bark of poplar, aspen, willow birch and other such soft wood trees. I have yet to see an evergreen tree that has been cut down by beaver and eaten.
Although lacking in great brain power, the beaver is quite good in his field of survival. For instance, if much of its food trees have been eliminated over the years, the beaver will build water canals that may go back a few hundred feet back in the bush to reach other available food trees of its liking. It will float larger limbs out to build the dam as well as add to its food storage. The beaver stands little chance against its many large predators, but can stand its ground with its chisel teeth against the smaller predators such as mink.
Now to dispel a myth about beaver. They are far from loggers in falling a tree in a chosen direction. The tree that has been chiseled away to a point of being unstable, will unfortunately fall in any direction what so ever, sometimes killing this would be logger.
The beaver is a vegetarian. That being so, it does not survive on tree bark alone, but whatever vegetation that might be handy.
Next in line is the beaver dam. Indeed a beaver dam is a sight to really see. The dam location is strictly by chance and not derived by engineering brain choice.
As for intelligence, the beaver’s smarts are only about one half of a good family dog.
I have some doubt about the future of beaver. On one side they are possibly the most beneficial creature to all wildlife including fish, mammals and birds. They build ponds where there had never been a pond. On a former property I had back in Ontario, there was such a beaver pond. I would sit on the edge of the bush a watch the geese build a safe nest out in the large pond.
Deer would come down and drink the water and chew on the aquatic plants.
On the edge of the pond was a tall dead white pine tree that the falcons would sit and look for an unsuspected muskrat to show its head.
I would watch as the bats and swallows would fly in a twisted fashion, catching the flying insects that were part of the pond life.
The cold water stream that flowed into the pond held speckled trout that often decked my dinner plate.
But modern times have seen forestry harvest extend right down to the beaver ponds, making it less attractive to wildlife. The lack of progress to protect wetlands has worked against the beaver, as well as all wildlife.
In short, the real enemy to beaver and all wildlife is the human thrust of development to benefit humans alone, and that is a sad state of affairs.
I have had the good fortune of working with beaver.
Fortunately, I have had experience with dynamite prior to being a Conservation Officer, so I could minimize the impacts. Later when I was stationed in eastern Ontario I was often delegated to blowing beaver dams that had caused flooding in rural areas or near bridges.
One such beaver dam had been built under a wooden bridge on a township rural road not far from the city of Cornwall, Ontario.
I was notified by the district office to remove the dam. The next morning I was planting a couple sticks down very low in the dam to simply loosen the dam to crumble and flow out.
I placed a cap in the dynamite and heard someone call me from up on the bridge. It was the township road superintendent.
My morning drink was milk, where his was far stronger and he had already consumed his daily limit. He told me he had come down to get the damn beaver dam out himself and had planted 5 sticks in there the night before.
I immediately called the office to notify them I no longer would have anything to do with removing the dam as the township road supervisor had put far too many sticks in the dam and would be blowing it himself. I walked back to my cruiser sat down on the seat and true to the superintendent’s word, he removed the beaver dam along with the bridge .
You might say “I’ll be damned.” Excuse the pun.