In chapter 10 of The Adventures of Mo, Mo and Finchy meet Kit, a beaver that lives at the Hotel for the Furried and Feathered. It’s one of the most popular places for animals to stay while on vacation. BUT, the more Kit talks about her knowledge of building, the more she annoys Finchy. While birds build amazing nests to lay their eggs and protect baby birds called chicks or hatchlings, beavers are also among Mother Nature’s best architects. They’re experts at designing and building things like their home, which is called a lodge.
Although they don’t have any hammers or nails, a beaver’s body is fully equipped to build lodges that vary in size from six to forty feet, depending upon how many beavers are in their family or colony. That number generally ranges between two and eight.
Beavers use their teeth to cut down trees and branches that are close to the areas where they find food, and then drag them to their building location. Their lodge may be close to the shore or further out in the water. They even chew on the wood to break it into smaller pieces and use their hands to squish mud between the logs. Then they smack the logs and mud with their flat tail to make sure everything is sturdy.
What’s cool about their lodge is that it has one or more underwater entrances so they can escape predators. Their lodge has to sit over an area that’s at least five to six feet deep. If a spot is not deep enough, a beaver will create a watertight dam across the water, blocking the flow and making the water deeper. But the dam isn’t where they live. Their home, the lodge, is a separate place or structure.
Beavers design their lodge with the following amenities (or features):
- A room large enough to store food
- A food ledge where they can store food over colder months
- An air vent to help keep the lodge cool over hot summer days
Now that you know where they live, let’s learn more about who they are and how they live:
- They have stocky bodies with a yellow-brown to almost black coat and a broad, flat, scaly tail. Their very large teeth, called incisors, are orange, self-sharpening and grow throughout their lives. But they wear down through daily use. While their back feet or paws are webbed, their front feet look like hands.
- They can swim up to six miles per hour and stay underwater for up to 15 minutes while traveling over half a mile.
- Their whiskers help them detect, or sense, objects around their face and head. This is helpful when swimming in deep water, which is usually dark. Their sight is only good for short distances or at close range. Their ears also have valves that close while they’re underwater.
- The shape of a beaver’s flat tail may be the animal’s best-known trait. It can vary from short and broad to long and narrow. It’s used as a rudder while swimming and helps them balance things when on land. When they slap their tail on the water, it signals danger to others nearby to find a safe place to hide, such as in deep water. They will also store fat in their tails, allowing them to survive winter months when food may not be available.
- They are rodents, just like mice, rats, and hamsters. But they are the largest rodents in North America (which includes the US, Canada and Mexico) and the second largest in the world. They generally weigh between 35 and 65 pounds, are three to four feet long, and stand between one foot and one and one-half feet tall.
- They mostly live in ponds, lakes, rivers, marshes, streams or other types of wetlands.
- Their fur is water repellent!
- They are herbivores, which means they eat plants. Their favorite meal includes mixed vegetables, leafy greens, and lots of wood.
- They’re social animals and form strong family ties. A mother and father, kits, which are baby beavers, and sometimes yearlings, which are two years of age or older, live peacefully together in the same lodge. They rarely argue or fight with each other. Maybe that’s because there’s no TV remote control!
- They’re mainly nocturnal, which means they’re active at night.
- They typically live ten to twelve years.
They are also smart creatures. When some of their behavior is instinctive or natural, they also learn by imitation and from experience.
People who care for these semi-aquatic rodents in the wild believe that they’re “gentle, reasoning beings that enjoy playing practical jokes” on each other. Sorry, we tried to find out more about their sense of humor, but apparently no one online is explaining what beavers think is funny. Not even the beavers. What do you think would make a beaver laugh?
Some beavers have been movie stars or featured in books. Here’s a sampling:
- A Walt Disney movie called Lady and the Tramp featured a brown beaver called Busy.
- He-Beaver or Mr. Beaver is a gruff but good-hearted beaver with a sense of humor in The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasy novels by British author C.S. Lewis.
- Pudgy Beaver Mom was a female beaver character in the third Ice Age movie.
- The TV series called The Angry Beavers was about Norbert and Daggett Beaver, two beaver brothers who have left their parents and home to become bachelors in the forest near the fictional town of Wayouttatown, Oregon.
Then there are others like Tim the Beaver. He’s the official mascot of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), a university that focuses on technology and science, kind of like what beavers do when building dams or their lodge. Likewise, Benny Beaver is the official mascot of Oregon State University. They are hard workers, perhaps something that these schools hoped their students would be while attending.
There’s also Beave, the Internet’s most famous beaver! Nancy Coyne, a wildlife rehabilitator, adopted the beaver after suspecting he had been orphaned. Someone found him by the side of the road when he was about three weeks old and contacted Coyne, who lives in Hudson Valley, New York. She raised Beave for about two years, allowing him to remove objects from her home that would help him build dams. Would you ever raise a beaver?
Do you know something fun or special about beavers that you would like to share? Please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your name, age and state you live in and we just might post it on Mo’s social media pages!