Beaver

©Jack Hicks

Beaver

Scientific name: Castor fiber
Our largest rodent, the European beaver has a flat tail and webbed feet, and is well-suited to a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Once hunted to extinction in the UK, recent reintroductions have been very successful.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 70-100cm
Tail: 30-40cm
Weight: 18-30kg
Average lifespan: 10-15 years

Conservation status

Extinct in the UK until 2009. Protected Status in progress.

When to see

January to December

About

The European beaver is a busy animal, with an ability to alter its surroundings - it fells small trees and bushes for food and dam construction and moves plant materials throughout its home range. Its preferred habitats are open woods alongside rivers, old riverbeds and lakes. In late spring and summer, it eats mainly aquatic plants, grasses, ferns and shrubs, but at other times, woody species form the major part of its diet. Beavers live in family groups of three to five, comprising adults, kits and yearlings. Females produce one litter of two to three kits per year. Beavers are semi-aquatic, mostly active at dawn and dusk, and do not hibernate. If you want to see them in the wild, you can visit the Scottish Beaver Trial at Knapdale, Argyll.

How to identify

As large as a Labrador dog, but with shorter legs, the European beaver is robust and heavily built. Two distinctive features are a broad, flat tail, covered with scales, and webbed feet. It has small eyes and ears, and light brown fur.

Distribution

Small numbers reintroduced to locations in England, Wales and Scotland from mainland Europe.

Did you know?

European beavers make dams so that they can move about and look for food undercover and beneath the water. The work they do, coppicing trees and building dams, helps plants and creates wetland habitats that benefit an enormous number of other species, from water voles to amphibians, dragonflies to birds. Beavers also have a third, transparent eyelid (called a nictitating membrane) that protects their eyes as they swim underwater.

How people can help

You can help by supporting beaver reintroduction trials being run by The Wildlife Trusts. Visit the websites of the Scottish Beaver Trial, Devon Wildlife Trust's Beaver Project and the Welsh Beaver Project to find out more.