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North American Beaver

Part of Hall of North American Mammals.

NAM North American Beaver Hero

Exhibition Text

July evening, Central Michigan

The beaver is not your typical rodent. It’s the largest one on the continent, and the only one that can cut down mature trees. Beavers use the timber to build large, elaborate nests—dome-shaped lodges with underwater entrances— inside ponds. If there is no pond, beavers will create one by building a dam to block a stream. The resulting moat around their lodges keeps wolves, coyotes and other predators at bay.

As semiaquatic rodents, beavers have closeable ears and nostrils, webbed hind feet and very dense fur coats. Their paddlelike tails appear to be covered in scales like a fish, but they aren’t. Rather, the skin is grooved in a scaly pattern, which makes the thick tail more flexible. 

Beaver Pond 
Hoister Creek, Michigan

Beavers can drastically alter landscapes. Working in family groups of four to eight, a beaver colony can cut down more than a ton of trees per ye