Beavers

Scientific Name:   Castor Canadensis


When is the best time to view beavers in Monterey County and where is the best viewing?

Beavers are not easy to spot as they are nocturnal and therefore not often active during daylight. Beavers are active year round but are most busy in fall as they prepare their den for winter. They do not hibernate but spend a majority of the wintertime inside their dens.

Beavers reside in the forests surrounding the Salinas River. The most likely way to encounter beavers in Monterey County is to walk quietly before sunrise or sunset along the Salinas River, Arroyo Seco River, and some streams in the Los Padres National Forest.

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About Beavers

American Indians call the beavers the “sacred center” of the land as they play an important role in the lives around them. Beaver damming not only provides a den for beaver families, but also creates flourishing habitats for other animals and provides cleaner water for humans. Dams continually preserve wetlands through floods, droughts, reduced erosion, and water purification. This is achieved as beavers’ dams retain water on land to allow more time to filter out silt and toxins.

Beavers use branches, mud, rocks, and anything else nearby to create their dams or lodges. They can turn shallow streams into deep-water ways or even reroute waterways by creating a dam. This innovative engineering protects themselves from predators, as deep water is a great defense and most predators of beavers cannot swim.

Beavers are built for life in the water. They have large hind feet with webbed toes for swimming quickly. Beavers have the ability to close their ear canals and nasal openings to keep water from entering. Towing branches in the water is made easy by cheeks that close behind grasping teeth.  Beavers also have an inner transparent eyelid that acts as a pair of goggles and provides excellent vision underwater. 

The dense under layer of a beaver's fur coat creates and traps a layer of air against their skin that serves as insulation. Their waterproof fur requires a great deal of grooming and is maintained with oil from their castor gland, located between the pelvis and base of tail. When grooming, beavers use their wide, flat tail as a portable chair. Their leathery tail also serves as fat storage and helps regulate their body temperature. In the water, their tail becomes a rudder to help them swim faster. A beaver's tail also serves as a warning system when slapped on the water’s surface to inform other beavers of approaching danger.

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Beaver Fun Facts

  • Can hold their breath underwater for 15 minutes
  • Use their incisors (teeth) to cut down trees
  • Powerful jaws can drag a 20 pound log of wood
  • Dams are usually made to only be entered by going underwater
  • Swim as fast as 5 mph
  • Largest rodent in North America
  • Front feet have five fingers
  • Family groups are called colonies
  • Usually monogamous (one mate for life)

Habitat: lakes, ponds, marshes and other slow-flowing rivers and streams at almost all elevations with enough vegetation

Length: head and body is 23–39 inches; tail is 7–12 inches long

Weight: Up to 60 pounds

Diet: leaves, bark, twigs, roots and aquatic plants

Lifespan: 10-15 years in the wild, 20 years in captivity

Reproduction: Breed between January and March and produce 1-8 kits (average 3 or 4) between April and June