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What Do Beavers Eat? Can Humans Feed Them?

While beavers might not be the most popular animals, many people around the world have strong connections with them, sometimes originating from childhood cartoons.

If you have ever seen a beaver in its natural environment, you should consider yourself fortunate since these adorable creatures are incredibly illusive.

Although beavers build their homes alongside rivers, lakes and wetlands, these animals are strict vegetarians. Even so, beavers will not simply eat any type of tree or aquatic plants, as you will discover in this article. Here is everything about beavers’ diet, how they procure food, and how they store it during difficult times.

Facts About Beavers 

Beavers belong to the Castor family – the semiaquatic rodent family. There are two categories of beavers:

  • The North American beavers
The North American beavers

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  • The Eurasian Beavers
The Eurasian Beavers

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Beavers are strong and solid, furry mammals. The beaver is the second-largest rodent in the animal world. Adults can weigh around 40 pounds and measure up to 3 feet long.

One of the main reasons beavers build impressive wooden dams in the water is for protection. This structure protects them from possible predators, but it also helps them gather floating foods and materials that might come in useful.

Interesting fact: Beavers secrete a brown, slimy substance from special glands around the backside that smells delicious, just like vanilla!

Let’s check the most important aspects of a beaver’s daily diet. But first of all, we’ll look at how these animals procure their food.

How Do Beavers Gather Their Food?

Beavers use pretty much all their time and energy to cutting trees to eat and build dams.

Considering beavers do not have the necessary features to climb trees but will gnaw on trees close to the ground, biting in with their large front teeth until the tree falls. By doing so, they manage to access the green leaves and fruits, everything they want to eat. It is like feasting from a full salad bar.

But beavers don’t just eat fruits and leaves. They also eat the bark and the softwood on the branches they find. They use the tougher, woodier parts of the trees they fell to build dams. They will gather the edible vegetation and store them inside their lodges.

How Do Beavers Eat?

When eating, for instance, a twig, beavers will hold their food like a corn-on-the-cob. They will patiently turn their food all around until they consume every tiny bit of bark. They will chew the food with their mouths closed and only their big teeth sticking out.

What Do Beavers Eat?

As previously mentioned, beavers are natural herbivores and eat only plant material. They will also eat apples, small twigs, even shrubs.

Considering how much time beavers spend in the water, they also satisfy their appetite with aquatic plants, such as cattails, lilies, or pondweed.

Let’s explain more about some of their favorite ingredients:

Inner bark

The inner back is the primary food source for beavers. This is the softest part of woody material. The beavers are always eager to eat bark, and will snack on the bark of branches they have stored especially during the colder months, from fall to spring.

As a matter of fact, during harsh times, their diet will consist of primarily of bark. In many temperate areas, beavers will look for Aspen trees as their first choice. If they can’t find this tree species, they will ingest inner bark from other trees, like willow, cottonwood, or birch.

Leaves

While the bark is often the primary food for beavers, they won’t say no to leaves from woody plants. Juicy leaves are a great energy source, especially during summertime.

During these months, a beaver’s bark intake will drop. They will eat all kinds of plant leaves from different trees, including alder, aspen, cottonwood, and many more.

Twigs

Beavers eat the most narrow, soft, twigs from woody trees.

Shrubs and Ferns

Another meal to which beavers turn to during the summer days can be ferns and shrubs.

Aquatic plants and roots

Beavers spend a lot of time foraging for plants in the water. Furthermore, these cute creatures can dive for 10 minutes in one go. In many water-bodies they search for different foods growing close beneath the water’s surface.

Beavers enjoy eating many aquatic plants, like cattails and lilies. They will not hesitate to diversify their meal if they can find some juicy roots among the water plants.

Grass and crops

Beavers are pretty versatile when picking their food. These animals will also consume various grasses, but also crops, such as beans or corn.

They enjoy chewing leaves, roots, and grass stems. Their love for grasses and crops will also encourage them to build their lodges close to meadows, farmlands, and grasslands.

Variations In A Beaver’s Diet

It is essential to understand a beaver’s feeding behavior better in order to understand their diets. Beavers do not usually go for coniferous trees, like pine and fir. However, they won’t say no to these trees if food is scarce.

Scientists have observed beavers’ behavior and noticed how they primarily target and eat deciduous trees. They will carefully select the trees they are interested in, without disturbing the plants around.

How Do Beavers Deal With Food Shortage During Winter?

Beavers are brilliant animals. It is impressive how these creatures find meals during the cold months. Their tactic is storing food for winter: they create lodges on the edge of a water body, and spend most winter days inside their shelters.

Right before the fall, when water is close to the freezing point, they line the bottom of the lodge using some fresh tree branches. When the temperatures drop, the water freezes under and around these branches, providing them with effective insulation.

If their stores run out in winter, beavers will hold their breath, swim out of the lodge and forage under the ice to reach other potential food sources.

What About Baby Beavers? Do They Also Eat Leaves And Trees?

Like any other mammals, beaver cubs will start growing and developing by consuming their mother’s milk.

For the first six weeks, the baby beavers will only eat milk. After this period, they start to add other foods to their diet, beginning with leaves, bark, and inner bark.

However, during the first weeks of their lives, babies receive food from the other family members until they grow enough to forage independently.

Can People Feed Beavers?

Although they seem cute and fluffy, you should know that beavers can be dangerous if you get too close to them. These animals can become highly aggressive if you trespass on their lodges. Naturally, they will do everything they can to protect their home and territory.

People should also be aware that beavers can carry diseases like rabies. So you should avoid being bitten by a beaver. Never forget that beavers are wild animals.

If you still want to care for beavers from a distance, be careful and do not get close to their dams and lodges. Take the plant materials you want to give them and set out the food somewhere far from their lodges, around the edges of the water body.

They have a keen sense of smell and will probably come to visit the feeding spot not long after you place the food. If you get the chance, enjoy viewing beavers from a distance. If the beaver gets used to feeding times, it might become quite friendly but it’s still not recommended to get too close.

Experts would suggest not to offer food on a regular basis. These animals need to know how to search for food and should not become reliant on what people offer them. Beavers are meant to forage for food; it is essential for their health and survival. In addition, it is not good for beavers to get to used to people – removing their fear of people may create unfortunate situations in the future for both people and beavers.

Offer them food at irregular times and during periods when they may be in need. This habit will help them stay healthy and ensure they won’t grow used to human intervention.

Beavers In National Parks

In some national parks, beavers receive food regularly, simply to keep them away from some protected trees in the area. Due to their chewing habit, beavers can become quite destructive to some areas of trees.

There are many areas worldwide where people have covered trees in mesh fences to keep beavers away. By offering beavers food on regular hours, it can prevent potential tree damage. Yet, this should not be done without discussing it with a specialist first.

Last Words

Like many other rodents, beavers have an excellent appetite for food. These creatures do not hibernate during the wintertime, so they will permanently look for plants, roots, tree branches, and leaves, or feed on the materials they have stored in their lodges.

Considering it is always important for beavers to maintain their reserves, beavers will consume the same amount of food during all months of the year. We hope now you know more about these lovely animals, you will appreciate their intelligence and survival techniques.

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