Beavers in Winter

Illustrated by Sarah Pullen

Beaver activity creates wetlands which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world? They increase plant, bird, and aquatic life, and improve water quality for thousands of species. In order to breathe fresh air beavers do not apply mud to the peak of the lodge, creating a ventilation shaft. On a very cold winter day, look closely and you may see the beaver’s breath escaping from this chimney-like peak, or even hear the murmurs of the beaver family inside!

They have excellent senses of hearing and smell. When swimming a protective transparent membrane covers their eyes, and flaps close to keep water out of their nostrils and ears. Also, behind their incisors they have inner lips that allow them to carry sticks in without getting a mouthful of water.

Beavers do not hibernate, they just hunker down. Their lodges are mostly submerged but have a large dry den above water where their body heat keeps them warm enough to survive the cold season. Maybe you have seen a lodge or two in the Annex Park pond or beside Maiden Lake?

Beaver fur consists of short fine hairs for warmth and longer hairs for waterproofing. They need to groom daily to keep it waterproof, and frequently groom each other’s fur – a great social activity!

Beavers eat fresh leaves, twigs, stems, and bark and while they chew on any tree, they really like alder, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, poplar and willow. In the fall they collect sticks underwater so that once the pond freezes, they swim under the ice for a stick to nibble on!