The Beaver

If you look at a Canadian nickel, you will find a picture of a beaver. Beavers are a Canadian emblem. When Canada was first discovered by Europeans, beaver fur was very popular with people back in France and England. They made hats and coats from its fur. Many, many beavers were killed until there weren’t very many left. There are now laws to protect beavers and fortunately beaver hats and coats aren’t popular anymore.

Beaver, courtesy NPS

Beaver, courtesy NPS

Beavers like to live in the woods near streams, ponds and lakes. They eat the bark from trees such as aspen, poplar, willow, birch and maple. They have very strong front teeth which aren’t nice and white like yours, but orange because they have iron in them to make them strong.

Each beaver family of parents, babies and older brothers and sisters have their own home area. They first build a dam across a stream. They wedge sticks into the stream bed and weigh the sticks down with rocks and mud. Then they pack branches and grass between the sticks and spread on mud until they have made a thick wall. The water can no longer flow through and so it starts to collect behind the dam and forms a pond. The beavers are happy about this because they like to build their lodge in the deep water behind the dam.

Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge, Miller, NPS Photo

It takes them about a week to build their lodge of branches and mud. Finally they will have a home with an entrance and exit under water and a small room above the waterline where they can raise their babies.

Beavers have a big, flat tail. They use it to warn of danger by slapping it on the water, and they can also pump it up and down to help them swim faster.

PROJECT: If you like to bake, try making beaver tails for a treat. If you don’t have time to make these yourself, see if you can find a place that sells them and give them a try.

BOOKS: Beavers, by Deborah Hodge, Kids Can Press, 1998 (picture book); Jack: the story of a beaver, by Shirley Woods, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2002 (childrens fiction)

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