When thinking of beavers, the first image that comes to mind is that of a cute creature chewing on trees. Not only do they use the tree trunks to build dams, but they also feed on tree leaves, bark, and twigs.
And this is where the question comes: how do beavers get to those tree leaves? Can beavers climb trees?
No, beavers cannot climb trees. Their heavy bottoms, webbed feet, and poor eyesight make climbing exceedingly difficult. They might be able to climb, but only if the tree is leaning at an extreme slant. The beaver-like animals you might spot up on trees are most likely woodchucks or yellow-bellied marmots.
Here are some reasons why beavers can’t climb trees:
- Heavy overall weight
- Webbed hind feet
- Poor eyesight
1. Beaver Weight (Bottom Heavy)
Beavers are the largest species of rodents in North America, adults reaching up to 40 inches in length. At this size, they are also heavier than all other rodents.
Depending on the actual size and age, adult beavers can weigh 40 to 60 pounds on average. Larger beavers generally weigh about 70 pounds, whereas older or fattier beavers can weigh much more than that. There have been cases when adult beavers weighed more than 100 pounds.
Baby beavers weigh a little less than one pound at birth. By comparison, baby woodchucks weigh about an ounce at birth.
Not only are beaver kits already heavy as newborns, but they also gain mass pretty fast. A 6-month old kit generally weighs about 11 pounds, and this weight will likely double in 12 months.
According to specialists, there is a relationship between a beaver’s age and its mass, as highlighted in the table below:
|Beaver Age||Average Weight|
|0 - 6 months||1 - 11 lbs.|
|6 months – 1.5 years||13 – 24 lbs.|
|1.5 – 2.5 years||22 – 29 lbs.|
|Older than 2.5 years||Greater than 31 lbs.|
Note: The weight-age correlation above is often accurate, but factors other than age can influence it. These factors include environmental conditions, access to food, and eventual health problems.
Not only are beavers heavy, but their weight is mainly concentrated in the rear section of their bodies. This is why beavers are called bottom heavy animals.
The overall body weight and the distribution of mass make it difficult for beavers to climb trees. Stubborn beavers may manage to drag themselves up to a certain height (about four feet high), but this is rare.
2. Webbed Feet
Besides their weight, beavers are also poor climbers because of their anatomy. Beavers are a unique species of rodents adapted to a semi-aquatic existence. In fact, they mostly live in water and are often considered aquatic mammals.
Their habitat preference is reflected in the anatomy. Not only do beavers have transparent eyelids and closable nostrils and ears, but their large hind feet are also webbed and act like swimming fins. This characteristic enables beavers to move gracefully in the water.
However, this anatomy hinders the animal’s ability to move gracefully on land or climb trees.
The front feet are not webbed, but they are too small and weak to support a beaver’s weight while climbing straight up or down. Beavers generally use the front feet as hands for handling and carrying building material or holding food, but they don’t have opposable thumbs.
The bottom weight, webbed rear feet, and lack of opposable thumbs on the small front feet makes it challenging for beavers to climb on vertical surfaces.
Aside from strong limbs and proportionally-distributed mass, good eyesight is another requisite for climbing. However, a beaver’s eyesight is not acute.
Like most rodents, beavers have small eyes and incredibly poor eyesight. Although they can see colors, beavers are nearsighted animals. This means that they see clearly only the objects near them. Everything else is blurry – including the branches located higher up on the tree trunk that they could use for grip and leverage. Thus, climbing becomes particularly challenging.
Unlike some animals that have a more acute vision in the dark, beavers have poor eyesight regardless of the light conditions. The only exception is underwater, where the transparent eyelid can help them see better than other mammals.
Which Trees Do Beavers Avoid?
Beavers don’t climb trees, but they cut them to build dams or lodges and to feed on bark, twigs, and leaves. If you don’t pay attention, you may think beavers cut and eat all tree types. However, they have preferences, and there are some trees these rodents would rather avoid.
Knowing which they are can help you keep beavers in your area away from your property – although it should be said that beavers only avoid certain tree types as long as they have a choice. If the area lacks a beaver’s favorites, it will cut and feed on whatever trees are available.
As a general rule, beavers prefer deciduous trees over conifers. Aspens, poplars, and willow trees are high on beavers’ preferences. When these tasty trees are not available, beavers resort to less preferred trees like red maple or black birches.
Beavers will only eat conifers to avoid starvation. However, these evergreens cannot provide beavers with the necessary nutrients, and the animals cannot subsist long on conifers alone.
When the preferred trees are not available, beavers are known to sample the trees in the area before cutting them or feeding on their bark. To do that, they cut into the bark and sometimes even remove the bark around the entire base of less desirable trees (a process known as girdling).
With this in mind, here’s a list of trees beavers will generally avoid:
- Indian plum
- Sitka spruce
Beavers cannot climb trees, but their lives revolve around trees. The rodents use them as a building material for dams and lodges but also as a source of food.
Tree leaves, bark, and twigs make up for most of a beaver’s diet, especially in the colder months when there is a short supply of soft vegetation. Whether you plan to set up a beaver sanctuary on your property or just want to know which trees to plant to keep these rodents at a distance, we hope this guide can help you.
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