Discover Nature: Beavers Are Active Now

Oct 25, 2016

Can you name a common Missouri animal that is also one of the least visible? This week on Discover Nature we learn more about beavers.

A beaver’s lips close behind its front teeth, allowing it chomp trees with its mouth closed.
Credit Glenn Chambers / Missouri Department of Conservation

If you have ever spent time walking near creaks or rivers, you have probably seen beaver cuttings, but few have seen the critter behind the toothmarks. The largest of North American rodents, an adult beaver can weigh from 40 to 60 pounds. It has a scaly, flat tail that serves as a rudder while swimming and a prop while the beaver chips at trees.

Although beavers are active in all seasons, winter is a good time to observe signs of these able construction workers.  Beavers eat tree bark, especially from young trees.  They may cut down a large tree simply to feed on the tender bark of its branches.  After chewing off the bark, they use the peeled limbs to construct lodges and dams.

When they build dams, beavers change the landscape dramatically, and the changes promote their survival.  On land, beavers move slowly and awkwardly.  In water, they are agile and adept swimmers, and can make quick retreats from predators that could also overtake them on foot.  In water, beavers can easily transport food and building supplies.  As their dam backs up water over a wide area, beavers ensure safe and easy access to more and more trees.

Prized for their fur, beavers were exterminated in Missouri by 1915. However, through restoration efforts of the Conservation Department, beavers now thrive all throughout the state.

Learn more about identification of beavers and their habits online.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.