The beaver is North America’s largest rodent, weighing up to 60 pounds and although muskrats are sometimes mistaken for beavers, the latter is easily recognized because of its broad, flat, scaly tail, as opposed to the muskrat’s skinny rat-like tail. Their hind legs are webbed for easy gliding in water and comb-like claws aid in grooming. Their tail is used for steering while swimming and also is used to brace themselves when standing upright on land. It’s also handy to warn its family of danger by slapping it against the water. Their soft, lustrous fur keeps them warm and easily repels water.
Beavers have an obsession with running water and feel compelled to dam it up. One of the most unique features of beavers is their incisor teeth, which continually grow throughout their lifetime and therefore they must constantly use them to wear them down or they would become overgrown. Razor sharp, they can chew through trees at an amazing pace to fell even the largest trunk. They then drag branches with their teeth and front paws into the water to push them into the creek bottom, gradually building up a wall packed with mud. So how do beavers carry mud? They will use their front paws holding a large mound dug from riverbanks, walking on their hind legs to carry it to their dam where they pack it in amongst the beautifully woven cache of sticks.
- One in ten black bears is pale, and to produce pale cubs both parents – white or black – must carry the gene that results in the white or cream-coloured coat.
- The bears play a key role in the ecosystem, contributing to the growth of the forest by spreading marine nutrients. They carry salmon carcasses deep into the forest where they are absorbed by the forest floor and the nutrients from the ocean are effectively transferred to the trees.