Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

If you can't find the answer below then

1. Q: What do beavers eat?

A: Beavers are vegetarians that often prefer to eat herbaceous plants, such as clover, grasses, raspberry canes and aquatic vegetation, instead of the green bark, leaves and twigs of fast growing trees, such as aspen and willows. Beaver can survive on the tubers of water lilies.


1a. Q: Do beavers hibernate?

A: Definitely not. Beavers have an active life all winter long, even when trapped under the ice in the North. They normally store enough food underwater to last them till the ice melts and retrieve it through their underwater exits and entrances to their lodges



2. Q: How long do beavers live?

A: 20-30 years in captivity. Dorothy Richards had a beaver that lived over 20 years in an addition to her house. In most areas with predators and beaver trapping, they live 10 years or less.


3. Q: How much does a beaver weigh?

A: As an adult they average 40-60 lbs.(18-27kg.). Newborns often weigh about one pound (0.5 kg.).


4. Q: How do I care for an orphaned beaver kit?

A: In some states it's illegal for anyone except a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to possess wild animals, and a rehabber is best able to care for a kit. To find a rehabber, call the local animal shelter, state wildlife agency, sheriff's department or a veterinarian.

Cher Button-Dobmeier (585.466.7811) is a wildlife rehabilitator who is an expert in the care of beaver kit orphans and injured adults.

Any nursing orphan that has been separated from its mother for a few days is probably dehydrated, and should be first offered a rehydrating solution, such as Pedialyte, from an eyedropper or small nursing bottle. Gradually add formula (one part ready-made Esbilac to one part Half and Half) to this. Kits need to be kept warm, but also need to defecate in water. Some people use a bath tub with a nest box at one end, and water in a washtub at the other end. They also should be offered poplar or willow leaves and rodent blocks. Kits can be released in the spring of their first year, but chances of survival are increased if released their second spring.


5. Q: How long does a beaver stay in the same wetland?

A: Until the food runs out--this may occur in a few years or a few decades.


6. Q: Do beaver mate for life?

A: Yes, but if the first mate dies, they often find another. As occurs in many species, a new male may reject the offspring of the first one.


7. Q: Do the males fight over females?

A: No, but the adults of both sexes tend to be very territorial once the family unit is established. They post their territory with scent mounds that tell other beavers that this wetland is occupied.


8. Q: How do beavers migrate and move to another wetland?

A: By water or land, and if by land, this is where much mortality occurs from predators, such as coyotes, and accidents. They have been known to travel tens of miles. The two-year-olds usually leave home to find their own territory, and create new ponds by daming streams. At the same time, they often dig a burrow in the side of a bank, lay sticks on top and then burrow upward to start a lodge. As they build up the dam to increase the water level, the lodge becomes surrounded by water. If the waterway is a river they may just build a bank burrow.


9. Q: Are beavers dangerous to people?

A: Rarely. They belong to the order rodentia, but are more closely related to squirrels than to mice. Beavers are gentle social animals that have a strong inhibition against biting. They can become somewhat aggressive during the mating season, which usually occurs in the winter. Any animal, however, may bite when frightened or cornered, so avoid a hissing or blowing beaver.


10. Q: How can you tell the sex of a beaver?

A: Both sexes have a cloaca similar to a chicken, i.e. only one opening for the digestive, urinary and reproductive systems. Since there are no external sex organs, observation of enlarged nipples can be used to identify a nursing female. Because the penis has a bone, X-rays or palpatation are other common methods. Another way is to express the anal glands of a tame, or immobilized animal. If the secretion is dark (brownish), then it is a male. If light (clear or whitish), it is a female.

10a. Q: What are the male and female beaver called?

A: There are no special names for the male or female, but the babies are called kits.


11. Q: Will beavers overrun the landscape?

A: Beavers are limited by the amount of available habitat and food. They are also limited to areas with lakes and waterways, which is normally only a few percent of the landscape.

Only a fraction of the former beaver population prior to European settlement remains, and much of their former habitat has been developed. Since one colony (family) can require a half mile of streamside habitat, their population is unlikely to explode. Also, beaver birth rates slow as available sites become occupied.


12. Q: Why isn't trapping or relocation, the best way to solve a beaver/human conflict?

A: Removal tends to be only a short term solution, since if there's good beaver habitat others are apt to take their place and you will have the same conflict. It is usually better to solve the specific problem and live with the beavers, because they produce such valuable habitat and other benefits. Use of drowning sets is inhumane, because beavers can hold their breath for ten to fifteen minutes and suffer intensely from hypoxia (lack of oxygen) before death without undergoing carbon dioxide narcosis.


13. Q: When are beavers active?

A: Beavers are active mainly at night, but occasionally can be seen out and about during the day. The best time to see beavers is at dusk, i.e. about an hour before darkness or at sun up early in the morning.