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North American Beaver
Happy International Beaver Day! (April 7) The beaver is a special creature on planet Earth because it has the ability to shape its environment. More so than any other animal besides humans. These engineers create essential wetland habitat that supports an astonishing diversity of life. Beaver dams create ponds that filter pollutants from streams, raise the water table, and fight erosion.
On our American Safari, we were a bit surprised to learn that the beaver is still a reviled creature in Canada. As I was photographing the above beaver peacefully foraging in Duck Mountain Provinical Park (Manitoba, Canada), a man and woman pulled up behind us in a pickup truck. The man got out and said “You got enough pictures of that beaver?” I asked him why and he responded, “Cause when you’re done I’m gonna shoot it.” I waited awkwardly to see if he would laugh, but he didn’t. I turned away and resumed taking photos and wondered to myself if he actually meant it. We repeatedly ran into Canadians that despised the large rodents, even though the beaver is proudly displayed as the logo for Canadian National Parks.
Beavers have been persecuted since Europeans first set foot on this continent, mostly due to the popularity of using beaver fur in felted hats. Great naturalists like Grey Owl worked hard in the early 1900’s to bring the beaver back from the brink of extinction in Canada. And today conservationists still fight to teach people the value of the beaver in North America’s ecosystems.
There are only two beaver species in the world, the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) and the Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber). Beavers are the second largest rodents in the world after the Capybara! An average adult weighs thirty to forty pounds, but exceptionally large ones can weigh as much as ninety pounds! There are so many cool things about beavers and their lodges that I could blab on about it for many pages, but instead I will encourage you to research them more on your own this International Beaver Day. In the meantime, her’s a fun video of clips I shot of beavers in Canada last summer. Enjoy!