After being nearly trapped to extinction in the 1800's, the beaver is back in full force and they are making a big impact.
Big Sky Wildlife Spotlight: Beavers
When you're traveling near streams, rivers, wetlands, or marshes while in Big Sky Country, keep your eyes on the look out for beavers or at least signs of beavers.
The beaver is a keystone species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and beyond. These natural dam builders can change the landscape and affect the entire ecosystem by damming streams, diverting waterways, and thinning trees and vegetation.
Beavers are North America's largest rodent north of Panama and they are native to the Yellowstone region, which makes them a common site in Big Sky Country - especially in the NW sector of Yellowstone National Park (that's just a few miles south of Big Sky).
Let's take a look at some interesting facts about beavers:
Trees Cut Down For Beaver Dam | Pixabay
- The scientific name is Castor canadensis.
- These hump backed creatures are 25 to 40 inches long including their paddle shaped tail.
- They weigh 30 to 60 pounds.
- Beavers have thick brown fur and their tail is scaled.
- Beavers use their scent glands to secrete an oily substance called castoreum, which waterproofs their fur.
- Beavers are excellent swimmers. They can swim up to 6 MPH and can stay submerged for up to 15 minutes.
- Beavers use their webbed hind feet to propel themselves while swimming and they use their tail as a rudder to maneuver.
- Beavers also use their tail to slap the water when they feel threatened.
- Clear eyelids allow beavers to see underwater.
- Their lips are lined with fur and their nostrils and ears have valves that keep the water out.
- Prime habitat consists of rivers, lakes, streams, marshes and other areas that contain water. If ponds do not exist, beavers will try to create them.
- The sound of running water stimulates beavers to build dams.
- Dams are accessed by swimming underwater. They usually have 2 areas - an wet area to dry off and a dry area for living.
Beaver Swimming | PIxabay
- Beavers live in family groups called colonies that consist of 2 to 14 beavers that are related.
- These animals are somewhat territorial and beaver dens are usually at least 50 meters apart.
- To build their dens they use their large incisors to cut down trees.
- Their incisors constantly grow because they get worn down quickly from gnawing on trees and bark.
- They use their tails to slap and pack mud around their lodges and dens.
- Sometimes they hare their dens with muskrats.
- Beavers have almost no predators while in the water, but while on land they must look out for bears, wolves, lions, coyotes, and humans.
Beaver Dam In GTNP | Pixabay
- Beavers are herbivores.
- Beavers breed in January to March. Gestation last 105 to 107 days. They have 1 litter per year that consists of 2 to 4 young called kits.
- Kits leave home at 2 years.
- On average beavers live 5 years in the wild.
- International Beaver Day is April 7th.
If you capture a cool wildlife photo of a beaver in the mountains near Big Sky, please share it on social media with #visitbigsky.
Take a minute to enjoy this short Inside Yellowstone video about beavers in Yellowstone National Park:
Learn more interesting facts about beavers from these sources: