Beavers are one of the largest rodents in the world. They live throughout the majority of North America and the boreal forest regions of Canada, Europe and Asia. They are actually divided into two species, the American Beaver and the Eurasian Beaver. Both species are herbivores that are active all year long. They are semi-aquatic and live in lakes, ponds, streams and rivers where they build dams or burrows. Beavers possess a set of transparent eyelids which enable them to see under water. They primarily are active at night when predators are asleep.
Beavers are social animals, living in large family groups of monogamous parents, young kits, and the yearlings from the previous spring. Beavers homes, called lodges, are domelike constructions built from branches and mud. They are positioned in open water for protection from predators and have underwater entrance holes.
Beavers don’t mind the cold, they can be seen active throughout winter and maintain use of their ponds even when covered with a layer of ice. Waterproof fur prevents beavers from freezing in the water; their webbed feet serve as fins and flat tail as paddle, which all together provides efficient moving through the water. Their long flat tail is one foot long. It is used for swimming and communication. By slapping the water surface with tail, beaver alerts other members of the group about potential danger.
It has been said that next to humans, beavers do more to shape their environment than any other animal. Beavers build dams across waterways creating ponds behind them and then build their lodges in the center of the pond. The lodges have an underwater entrance, keeping the beavers safe from predators. Beaver ponds create important habitat for many other species, including juvenile Coho salmon. Some migratory birds also prefer landing on beaver ponds instead of more open bodies of water. Streams and rivers throughout the country where beaver dams are present have higher clarity levels and lower pollution levels. This is believed to be a result of the beaver dams slowing water and allowing these things to settle to the bottom.