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FEEDING SIGNS

Beavers in winter forage on shrubs and tree bark. Their feeding remains are characteristic as they are marked by its wide front incisors. Beaver foraging areas are often found along water edge, where gnawed branches are being discarded. The beaver gnaws and fells larger trees and leaves them in a shape of an hour-glass stump. The trees are predominantly felled in autumn and winter, when no herbaceous and aquatic plants are present for beavers to feed on.

BEAVER LODGE

is a noticeable structure built from branches and mud. Beaver lodges differ according to shape and size as several beavers are cohabiting them and are built in diverse habitats. If the bank is high enough, the beavers only dig out a burrow. The entrance into a burrow is usually below the water surface and can be observed at lower water levels.

BEAVER DAM

If the water is not deep enough around the lodge, the beaver can regulate it by building a dam. The beaver most often builds dams on narrow water ways and ditches. This way it guarantees a safe passage to the beaver lodge and the stored food. Dams are made from various material: branches, mud, stones and different type of vegetation.

FORAGING TRAILS AND CANALS

To access food, beavers use the same entrance and exit areas and footpaths. If the banks are really steep, they can also use tunnels to get on land. To access various water bodies in the area, the beavers also dig out trenches which get flooded. This way they create shortcuts between different waterways.

FOOTPRINTS

The hind feet are bigger than front paws with the webbing only being present between toes of the back feet. Both front paws and back feet have five fingers, however, they are often not all visible on footprints. The beaver footprints are often difficult to spot due to their wide tails which they drag behind them on the ground and distort the footprints or by dragging the branches which has a similar effect.

Front paw: length between 5 and 7 cm, width of 4,5 cm (only four fingers are usually noticeable on the footprint)

Hind foot: length between 12 and 17 cm, width of 10 cm (there are usually all five fingers visible on the footprint)

SCENT MOUNDS

serve as to mark the territory of different beaver families. The animals usually build a small mound out of mud, sand, plant and/or twigs which they mark with the anal glands and urine. The gland excrement has a typical smell similar to vanilla.

DROPPINGS

Beaver droppings can be difficult to find as the animals excrete directly into the water. Sometimes the water washes them onto the bank. They are 2 to 4 cm long and up to 2 cm wide. Fibrous plant material is visible within, if the droppings are crushed.

LIVE BEAVER OBSERVED

Beaver can be mistaken for one of the other species of semi-aquatic mammals: otter, nutria or even a muskrat. A grown-up beaver weights up to 30 kg and is the only one with a flattened tail. Nutria weights a lot less than a beaver, up to 10 kg and has typical white hairs around its nostril. The muskrat is the smallest of the four and weights only up to 1.5 kg. The otter is a slender animal with long furry tail.

DEAD BEAVER OBSERVED

The beavers are often traffic casualties or they can die from any other causes such as drowning, various accidents, old age, diseases etc. If a dead animal is observed in the wild, we would welcome your observation and reporting it on our e-mail info@lutra.si or on our OTTERPHONE line +386 (0) 51 622 111.

 

 Literature:

Campbell-Palmer R., Gow D., Needham R., Jones S., Rosell F. 2015. The Eurasian Beaver. The Mammal Society. Pelagic Publishing, Exeter. 56 str.
Kitchener A. 2001. Beavers. British Natural History Series. Whittet Books Ltd., Suffolk. 144 str.
Kryštufek B. 2003. Strokovno izhodišče za vzpostavljanje omrežij NATURA 2000 Bober (Castor fiber). Končno poročilo. Prirodoslovni muzej Slovenije, Ljubljana. 77 str.

LIFE with the beaver, wetlands and climate change