The beaver is a large, brown, semi-aquatic mammal with a distinctive flattened, paddle-like tail. It lives in lakes, streams and forested wetlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Beavers have thick, glossy brown fur and a large, scaly, flattened, paddle-like tail that can be 9 to 10 inches long and 6 inches wide. They have webbed feet and large, chestnut brown front teeth. Their head is rounded with small, rounded ears. The beaver's head and body grow to 25 to 30 inches long and usually weighs 30 to 60 pounds.
The beaver lives in forested wetlands and tree-lined streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. It is semi-aquatic, meaning it spends time both on land and in the water. It builds lodges of sticks and mud on islands, river banks and shorelines. Within their lodges, beavers live in colonies that include an adult male and female and their young. Some beavers live in burrows within river banks. To protect their lodges, beavers build dams across streams to flood the area and create deep, quiet ponds. These ponds also allow beavers to safely transport food and logs through the water. Primarily nocturnal, beavers are occasionally active in late afternoon.
Found throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Beavers eat mostly tree bark and leaves. Red maples, willows, alders, shadbush and redosier dogwoods are some of their favorite foods. They have specialized digestive tracts that allow them to digest tree bark. They also eat bay grasses such as pondweeds and the roots and rhizomes of aquatic plants such as lilies and sedges. They store branches and stems in their lodges to eat during winter.
Adults have few predators; humans hunt beavers for their fur. Owls, hawks and otters may prey upon young.
Each colony of beavers has only one breeding female. Adult pairs are monogamous, keeping the same mate for life. Adults begin breeding between 2 to 3 years old. Beavers have one litter per year. Adults mate in January and February. After four months, an average of 2-4 young (called kits) are born. At birth they are covered in thick fur, weigh about one pound and have open eyes. Kits can swim within a week of birth and are weaned within 2 to 3 months. When they are two years old, yearlings (young born the previous spring) are driven out or leave their lodge. Beavers can live 11 years in the wild.