For centuries, beavers have been seen as little more than a nuisance to farmers and ranchers, with their dams causing flooding and unwanted changes to local vegetation. But in recent years, wildlife experts have begun trying to raise awareness about the critical role that beavers actually play in the local ecosystem. Earlier this summer, the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers program kicked off new research on Colorado beaver populations in an effort to restore the animal to areas where they’ve been eradicated. County officials have also launched this public awareness campaign to teach landowners how to peacefully coexist with the critters.
Why Beavers Matter
Here are just some of the ecological benefits that beavers have on their surrounding habitats:
- Their dams recharge groundwater
- They help maintain a healthy stream flow
- They build up watershed biodiversity
- They reduce wildfire risk
Beavers in the Wild
- Beavers typically prefer slow-moving streams surrounded by willows, aspens, cottonwoods, and alders for food and building materials.
- In the wild, beavers tend to live up to 10-12 years and grow to weigh anywhere from 35-65 pounds.
- Beavers are herbivores, eating bark, leaves, and aquatic vegetation.
Beaver Fun Facts
- Beavers’ teeth are as strong as metal and never stop growing (they can grow up to 4 feet per year!). A thick coating of iron makes their teeth appear orange.
- Contrary to popular belief, beavers don’t use their tails to pat down mud. Rather, beavers use their long, flat tails as rudders while swimming in the water, a prop for balancing when carrying large loads of sticks, and to slap the water in communication with other beavers.
- Beavers are monogamous. They live and work in family colonies of 2-12 members.