Saturday, April 7th is International Beaver Day! So, you know the drill…it’s time to get learning with some Safari Ltd beaver facts!
The word “beaver”, of course, means “one who beaves”. Wait, no, we’re being told that is, in fact, not actually a thing. In reality, the word “beaver” can be traced back to the Old English word “beofor”, which itself leads all the way back to an ancient Indo-European word meaning “brown”. So beaver means “brown”. That doesn’t seem fair, considering that their color is likely the least interesting thing about these remarkable mammals. Let’s learn a little more, shall we?
Beavers are rodents, and are the second largest rodent in the world, behind the capybara. There are two living species of beaver, one native to North America, and the other living in Europe and Asia known as the Eurasian beaver. Beavers feature a number of very distinctive traits that make them instantly recognizable. These include very prominent teeth designed for gnawing wood, a thick spiky fur coat, and a flattened, hairless tail. Each of these unique adaptations is specifically suited for the beaver’s lifestyle, which is quite unusual in the animal world.
|Beaver (showing off its teeth)||Beaver (showing off its tail)|
You see, beavers are semi-aquatic, meaning they spend a substantial portion of their lives in or near water. That explains their waterproof spiky fur. They use their tail to slap the surface of the water to warn other beavers of danger, which is why it’s so flat and hairless. But what about those big chompers? Well, beavers live in groups called colonies, and build their homes (called lodges) out of wood from trees they bring down with those wood-gnawing teeth.
Not only do they build their homes with the wood they collect, but they’re also quite famous for building dams. These structures are designed to stop the flow of a river, causing the water level to rise on one side of the dam. This deeper water give beavers protection from predators, and also allows them enough area for the underwater entrances for their lodges. In areas where the water is already deep enough, beavers often don’t build dams.
But when they do build dams, they have a remarkable effect on their ecosystem. In fact, aside from humans, beavers are believed to cause changes to their environment more than any other living species of animal. Beaver dams have been shown to control flooding, improve water quality, and foster nurseries that help fish and frog populations.
|Animals that Share the River Habitat of the Beaver|
Beavers were once hunted to the brink of extinction in the late 1800s, because their fur was in high demand to make clothing. Demand was so high at one point that an entire war, known as the French and Indian War, was largely fought over who had access to prominent beaver trapping lands. As more land became developed and the demand for fur decreased, beaver populations began to recover, and there are now believed to be over 12 million beavers worldwide. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but when you consider that the beaver population once numbered over 60 million, it puts their recovery into perspective.
Beavers are amazing creatures with unique abilities, and at one point they were nearly lost forever. Though they have recovered, not every species is so lucky. So, on this International Beaver Day, remember the importance of preserving and protecting species before they’re no longer there to protect.
Bernie’s Bonus Fun Fact: Beavers today are large (for rodents), and grow to about four feet long including their tails. But prehistoric beavers could grow to giant proportions. One species of giant beaver could grow to over 7 feet long!
You can create your own wood-chomping, dam-building adventures! Explore all of our Safari Ltd Beaver figures: