• <p>North American beaver (Castor canadensis)</p>
  • <p>Beavers chew down trees to eat their bark and to make dams</p>
  • <p>The beaver's flat tail is multifunctional, helping it to swim, build dams, and communicate</p>
  • <p>Beaver dams help create diverse habitats that serve many wildlife species</p>
  • <p>In the '40s and 50's post WWII, beavers were parachuted into the wild to help stabilize water supplies and ecosystems of certain areas in Idaho</p>

The North American beaver, nature's ecosystem engineer, is found in wetland areas of the United States and Canada, and also helps to create them.

It is the second-largest living rodent after the capybara, typically weighing 45-60 pounds, but up to 100 pounds. It has a stout body with a large head, long incisors that never stop growing, hand-like front feet, webbed back feet, and wide, flat, and hairless tails.

This keystone species may be most known for its behavior of building dams and lodges along waterways. A beaver creates these structures primarily for safety purposes, as it is vulnerable to predators on land, but a highly adapted swimmer. A beaver family's territory typically ranges about one-half mile in length, and a series of ponds will be created through damming over time across a beaver's territory. These structures lead to the formation of ponds and channels beavers can navigate while they search for food.

Beaver ponds create wetlands which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. They increase plant, bird, and wildlife diversity, improve water quality, and raise salmon and trout populations. This one species supports thousands of species, including humankind.

Historically, the beaver has been hunted for its fur, meat, and castoreum -- a chemical beavers secrete from special sacs near their tail that is used to produce medicine, perfume, and flavor food. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, beavers were overhunted and nearly exterminated. Since, the beaver has been reintroduced across its range and beaver populations have recovered to healthy levels. While the beaver can be a nuisance animal to landowners because of its tree felling and damming behaviors, its value as a living species is recognized today.