Beavers (Castor canadensis) are North America’s largest rodent, (second only to South America’s capybara for the title of World’s Largest Rodent!) and are known to be keystone species and critical ecosystem engineers. Thought to once number over 60 million in number, beavers were extirpated from much of their range during the heyday of the fur trapping industry. Since the decline of trapping, beaver populations have increased and expanded to re-occupy much if not all of their former range.
Weighing about 40 pounds and known for felling trees and creating dams, beavers can play a critical role in expansion of riparian areas, enhancing groundwater recharge, and providing habitat for insects, amphibians, fish and birds. Beavers are herbivores, preferring species in the genus Salix and Populus, such as willows and cottonwood. To avoid becoming food for coyotes, bobcats, wolves and more, beavers build their lodges with underwater entrances to come and go without exposing themselves to predation.
Want to learn more?
For more information about beavers, their benefit to our riparian habitats in the PNW, and using them as a ‘tool’ in our restoration toolbox, delve into this brand new Beaver Restoration Guidebook.
To learn more about beaver relocation efforts to increase beaver colonization in upper watersheds, read up on the Methow Beaver Project
Beaver dam analogues mimic dams created by beaver to entice colonization and work to increase stream complexity. Learn more about the field research being done on beaver dam analogues.