Beavers are fascinating animals with unique behaviors that significantly influence the ecosystems they inhabit. Beavers are semiaquatic mammals and are the largest rodent in North America. They have stout bodies with a broad, flat tail, webbed hind feet, waterproof fur, and a pair of large, sharp teeth that continuously grow throughout their lives. Like other rodents, they must chew to wear their teeth down to a manageable length. Their teeth are also yellow, not because of bad hygiene, but because they are

infused with iron, which helps them chew through tough objects like large trees. Beavers are found in freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes and are strict herbivores, eating the bark of trees, wetland vegetation, and other plant material. In Utah, beavers particularly love cottonwood and aspen trees as well as willows!

Beavers are well-known for their dam-building activities (they can’t stand the sound of rushing water!) and construct them using a combination of sticks, mud, and rocks to create a water barrier. These dams serve as their homes and protect them from predators. Beavers are mainly nocturnal and are skilled swimmers, they can stay submerged for up to 15 minutes!

Beavers build lodges within the ponds they create with their dams, where they live with their family groups. They also can create underground homes in the banks of rivers. Both lodge and river dens have underwater entrances, which help protect them from predators. The interior of the lodge remains above the water level and oftentimes has multiple “rooms” for different beaver activities. Beavers play a crucial role in shaping ecosystems. The dams they build can alter water flow, create wetlands, and provide habitats for various other species.

At one point, beavers were almost trapped to extinction in the United States and the loss of beavers from habitats has heavily degraded and altered natural waterways. More recently, beavers are being recognized for their impressive power to keep water on the landscape, and the wetlands they create serve as wildfire breaks, which is crucial for the drought- stricken West which has been experiencing more severe fires. Beavers are being reintroduced into many areas and land managers are working towards coexistence with these charming rodents.

The Ogden Nature Center is dedicated to coexistence and has welcomed beavers back to the preserve over the past two years with wonderful results. The beavers have played a critical role in keeping water in our streams longer and creating new habitats that benefit a suite of other wildlife species. Their dams act as natural filters which help collect sediments, excess nutrients, and trash, and prevent these materials from making their way downstream. However, this coexistence could not happen without active management as beavers oftentimes have ideas of their own which can, on occasion, conflict with land management at ONC. Beavers can quickly take down multiple large trees, hindering select habitat restoration efforts, and can flood roads and structures, including the ONC Picnic Grove area. Thankfully, there are multiple mitigation strategies that we use to ensure both the beavers and the ONC are happy and can coexist. These strategies include wrapping desirable trees with fencing to discourage chewing, installing pond leveling structures into beaver dams to keep the water at a manageable level for us and a deep enough level for them, as well as installing exclusionary fencing around key areas that can’t hold dams. We also monitor the beavers closely through wildlife cameras allowing us to observe both their behaviors as well as their cute faces!



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