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Archive - December 2020

American beaver Castor canadensis

What is an American beaver?
An American beaver is a mammal. Like all mammals, it has four limbs (legs). It has hair (fur). Its body temperature is kept at the same level regardless of the outside temperature. Its young are born after developing inside the mother's body in a special organ called the uterus. After birth, the young are fed with milk produced in the female’s mammary glands. It has a complex brain.

What Does It Look Like?
The American beaver has brown, waterproof hair and thick underfur. Its back feet are webbed. Its tail is hairless and flattened.

How Big is It?
An American beaver can be up to three feet long and weigh as much as 60 pounds.

Where Does It Live?
This mammal can be found statewide in Illinois. It lives in streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, ditches, canals and backwaters where trees are present.

How Does It Reproduce?
Mating takes place in January or February. The young are born in May or June. There are usually three to four young per litter. The young, also called "kits," are covered with fur at birth. The kits remain with their parents for up to two years.

What Does It Eat?
Bark, twigs and leaves of trees and shrubs as well as aquatic plants like duckweeds, some grasses and water lilies, are eaten by American beavers.

Does Anything Eat It?
Coyotes (Canis latrans) have been known to hunt and kill adult beavers. Beaver kits may be eaten by hawks, North American river otters (Lontra canadensis), eagles, owls, bobcats (Lynx rufus) and foxes.

What Else Should I Know About the American beaver?

  • This animal is mainly active at night.
  • Its nose and ears have valves that can be closed to keep water out as it swims. The lips can be closed behind the front teeth.
  • It may slap its tail on the water's surface to communicate with other beavers. 
  • It uses its incisors to gnaw through trees.
  • The beaver lives in a burrow or lodge. A burrow is built into a bank of a water body and includes resting and nesting areas as well as underwater entrances. A lodge is composed of small trees and limbs. It has underwater entrances, but the living area is above water.  

Can I Hunt It?
Yes. This mammal is a furbearer. It is trapped and hunted for the fur it can provide. See the regulations in the most current issue of the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.

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