Species Spotlight: The North American Beaver

Scientific Name

Castor canadensis


Before European settlement in North America, there were around 400 million beavers covering the continent. A long history of trapping and eradication programs left beavers nearly extinct by the end of the 19th century. Re-introduction efforts have been successful at restoring beaver populations to many of their former habitats.  


Beavers are the largest rodents in North America. On average, adults weigh 40 pounds and measure 3 feet in length. Beaver’s iconic webbed hind feet, flat tail, and large teeth make them easily identifiable. They are often found in marshes, rivers, and lakes where they can find enough building materials to construct their dams. 

Ecological Value

When Beavers build dams, they block stream flow and force water to slow down and spread out. As they are forming their ideal living ponds, they are simultaneously providing important services to the surrounding ecosystem. In addition to creating diverse wetland and floodplain habitats, beaver ponds are an essential way to store water and carbon. Beavers can help restore damaged streams and watersheds and are a classic keystone species.  

Did You know?

  • Beavers mate for life.
  • The largest beaver dam in the world is in Alberta, Canada and stretches 2,790 feet.

  • They secrete a goo that smells like vanilla and is an FDA-approved vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry flavoring for ice cream. 

  • Their front teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime but gnawing on wood prevents their teeth from growing too long.

  • They are mainly nocturnal.