Species Spotlight: The American Beaver
Americorps extraordinaire Shannah Cumberbatch is back this month with another species spotlight featuring one of the most exciting animals you can see at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens: the American Beaver!
The ponds at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are becoming less active as the colder weather sets in. However, some of our resident animals are still moving around. Take a walk along the grass pathways, and you will come across what seems like random piles of sticks and branches1. Though random to us, the animals that placed these sticks there know exactly what they are doing.
The North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is a mammal in the scientific order Rodentia. A common characteristic across all rodents is their large (very visible) incisor teeth. These teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. Daily use wears them down to a manageable length. If a rabbit or hamster has ever bitten you, then you know how painful those teeth can be. (Please, do not attempt to pet a wild beaver.)
Beavers are the largest rodent in North America and the second-largest in the world after the capybara. They are found in and around lakes, ponds, and streams2. Their young are often confused for muskrats at the Gardens. An easy way to tell the two apart is by looking at the tail. Beavers have a long, flat tail, while muskrats have thin, rat-like tails. Groundhogs also look similar to beavers, but beavers are never far away from water. Beaver fur is typically wet from spending most of its time in the water.
As the seasons change, the beavers will continue to be active. On your next visit to the Gardens, see if you can spot a beaver in the ponds or the marshland near the boardwalk. You might want to bring a pair of binoculars!
North American beaver – https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/castor-canadensis
Muskrat tail – https://www.chesapeakebay.net/S=0/fieldguide/critter/muskrat