Unbelievable Beaver Series Part 3: Unbelievable Beaver Facts

Skydiving beavers, dams seen from space, and beavers the size of bears!

In addition to playing an integral part in Blackfeet Culture and the fur trade and being ecosystem engineers, beavers are truly a remarkable species. In honor of International Beaver Day (April 7), we’ll explore four fascinating facts about beavers I’ll bet you didn’t know!


4. Masterful Swimmers 

Beavers are excellent swimmers. They have a third clear eyelid that allows them to see underwater. They also have valves on their ears and nose that automatically close when they are swimming 1. Their long, flat tails serve as a rudder help them steer and their large webbed feet help them move faster through the water. Their high-capacity lungs allow them to remain underwater for up to 15 minutes at a time .


3. Skydiving Beavers

Around the year 1950, The Idaho Fish & Game Department implemented a beaver management plan that had never been seen before. Recently discovered footage of a short film called Fur for the Future shows Idaho Fish & Game reintroducing beavers to remote locations by dropping them from airplanes in boxes with parachutes attached. The department stated that the purpose of the project was to redistribute beavers that were seen as a nuisance to people and property to places where beaver populations were low and natural water storage was needed 3.


2. The Giant Beaver

While the North American and Eurasian beaver stand relatively similar in size and stature, not every beaver throughout the Earth’s history was the size of an average dog. During the last ice age, the giant beaver (Castoroides) roamed from modern-day Florida to Alaska 4. Weighing approximately 220 pounds, the size of a black bear, and spanning up to six feet in length, the giant beaver was the largest rodent to exist in North America 4.


1. World’s Largest Beaver Dam
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World’s Largest Beaver Dam in Wood Buffalo National Park- Courtesy of Parks Canada

While the giant beaver is arguably the most impressive beaver species, the most impressive beaver achievement can be found in Wood Buffalo National Park in Northern Alberta 5. The world’s largest beaver dam, which is more than half a mile long, can be seen from space! Construction of the dam, which was discovered by accident in 2007, likely began in the 1970s and is continuing to expand thanks to the hard work of generations of beavers.

This concludes the three-part Unbelievable Beaver Series. Thank you for visiting the beaver blog. For more information, please check out the following links:

Protecting Beaver and Restoring Wetlands: The Ksik Stakii Project

Unbelievable Beaver Series Part 1: The Fur Trade and Beavers in Blackfeet Culture

Unbelievable Beaver Series Part 2: Ecosystem Engineers

Meet our Big Sky Watershed Corps Member, Jacob LeVitus


Sources:
  1.  “Beaver.” Information on the Beaver | The Nature Conservancy, http://www.nature.org/newsfeatures/specialfeatures/animals/mammals/beaver.xml.
  2.  “Beaver.” Wilderness Classroom, 7 Dec. 2013, http://www.wildernessclassroom.com/wilderness-library/beaver/.. Zorthian, Julia.
  3. “The True Story of Idaho’s Parachuting Beavers.” Time, Time, 23 Oct. 2015, time.com/4084997/parachuting-beavers-history/.
  4. “Giant Beaver”. [Online]. Natural History Notebooks. Canadian Museum of Nature.
    Last updated 2017-01-23. (Web site consulted 2018-04-02).
    https://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/giantbev.htm
  5. Parks Canada Agency. “beaver_gallery.” Parks Canada Agency, Government of Canada, 20 Dec. 2017, http://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nt/woodbuffalo/decouvrir-discover/beaver_gallery.
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