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Beaver Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sarah Caughron

Sarah has a master's degree in Applied Anthropology/Archaeology and has worked in formal and informal education since 2006.

Beavers have a very unique appearance and many interesting behaviors. Maybe you've even observed a beaver in a city park or on a hike near a pond? This lesson will teach you where beavers live, who they live with, and why the structures they build are important for other animals.

What are Beavers?

At first glance, beavers seem like odd creatures with parts that don't seem to go together. They have a flat, hairless tail, webbed feet like a duck, and bright orange front teeth! These seemingly mismatched characteristics are what helps the beaver survive in their environment.

Beavers are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. They are the largest rodent in North America and weigh about 40 pounds on average. They can be as long as 3 feet, and this includes their tail, which is unique because it is flat, hairless, and broad. This broad tail acts like a boat's rudder and helps steer the beaver in the water and provide balance on land. They can live up to 20 years in the wild. Beavers might be seen during the day on occasion, but they are mostly nocturnal, meaning they are active at night.

North American Beaver, Castor canadensis
American Beaver

Beavers are considered rodents. They are related to mice, hamsters, and squirrels. Rodents share the characteristic that their two bottom front and top teeth grow continuously. To keep their teeth at a healthy length, beavers (and other rodents) must chew wood. In fact, a beaver's front teeth are bright orange. Their teeth feature a thick enamel that protects them from damage from their demanding diet of hard wood.

Beavers have orange front teeth.
Beaver teeth are orange.

Beavers spend a lot of time swimming. They have webbed feet like a duck, and this helps them be great swimmers, swimming out of harm's way if a predator approaches. Their eyes have what's called a nictitating membrane, which is like a third eyelid and offers a protective covering when they go underwater. This is similar to goggles you might wear when you swim.

Where do Beavers live?

If you've ever heard anyone say she's busy as a beaver, there is a good reason for that comparison. Beavers are mammals that work hard cutting down trees with their teeth to build protective dams and houses that are called lodges. Beavers live all across North America in areas were freshwater and trees are plentiful. They have even been known to cause problems by trying to build dams in places like New York City!

Their home in the water or on the bank is actually warm and dry, and they use mud to fill spaces between tree branches. Beavers have food storage in their lodges that allows them to have food when the water is frozen.

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