View All Jan 25, 2016

Found on the Greenway: Beaver Damage

By Charlotte Morley, Catawba Master Naturalist

Most are familiar with the proverb “While the cat is away the mice will play” which means when no one in authority is present, the subordinates can do as they please.

Apparently the beavers took advantage when the Greenway trails were closed Friday and Saturday during the inclement weather.  On Sunday afternoon members of the Blue Star Blazers hiking club hiked around Lake Haigler. The beavers’ fresh work was evident. Here’s an example below, it’s amazing that they use their teeth to take down trees to bring to their den:

C.Morley_Pic1-25_Beaver2.jpgC.Morley_Pic1-25_Beaver3.jpgC.Morley_Pic1-25_Beaver1.jpg

The beaver, Castor canadensis, is North America’s largest rodent and lives in streams, ponds and rivers.  Their predators are coyote, bobcat and alligators. An adult grows to three to four feet long and can weigh between 30-75 pounds.  They are monogmaous, mating for life and producing a single litter each spring.  Their offspring are called kits and they may have 2-6 kits per litter. 

I was asked what beavers eat and I had only heard that they enjoy the sap from Sweetgum trees. In researching I found beavers don't actually eat wood, only the cambium of the tree, a soft tissue close to the surface in which new wood and bark grow. Beavers are herbivores (vegetarians/plant-eaters) and have a specialized digestive system that can digest all the fiber in their diet. Beavers eat bark, twigs, leaves, pond lilies, reeds, duckweed, alfalfa and clover. 

According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission:
While many people think about beaver only when they are causing problems, it is important to remember the beneficial aspects of beavers. By damming streams and forming shallow ponds, beavers create wetlands. These wetlands provide habitat for a tremendous diversity of plants, invertebrates, and wildlife, such as waterfowl, deer, bats, otter, herons, songbirds, raptors, salamanders, turtles, frogs, and fish (www.NCpedia.org/wildlife/beaver).

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