Beavers are semi-aquatic mammals known for building intricate dams and water lodges. They live in the same habitats as river otters, and the two animals are often mistaken for one another. However, they have different diets, which could leave you wondering whether beavers are carnivores, omnivores, or vegetarians. What do beavers eat?
Do Beavers Eat Meat?
Beavers never eat meat. They don’t eat fish or animal-derived foods either. Beavers are strict vegetarians, feeding on aquatic plants, soft vegetation, twigs, and tree bark, depending on the season. The common misconception that beavers eat meat is most likely linked to their physical resemblance to otters and groundhogs.
However, some may also believe that beavers eat meat because they are rodents.
While most rodent species are vegetarians, the most common ones are omnivores and eat meat or animal-derived foods, including eggs and honey.
Omnivore rodents include mice and rats. In the wild, mice have an almost exclusively vegetarian diet. However, mice are opportunistic rodents and will eat meat or fish if that’s the only available food. Rats are avid meat eaters and can even become scavengers in periods of scarce food availability.
Groundhogs and otters are often mistaken for beavers from a distance. Groundhogs are rodents, and while they eat plants, they also eat worms, snails, grasshoppers, and other insects. They sometimes also eat small mammals and birds.
Otters are not rodents, but some otter species live in the same habitat as beavers. They are semi aquatic mammals that take advantage of beaver dams to gain easier access to fish. Sometimes, they can even nest in abandoned beaver lodges, which could lead to further confusion when identifying between the two species.
As carnivorous mammals, otters eat fish, mussels, crustaceans, frogs, and other amphibians. They can sometimes prey on small mammals and even kill and eat beaver kits. However, because many people mistake otters for beavers, beavers are also commonly mistaken for eating fish.
With this in mind, you may now wonder what do beavers eat. Their diet varies from season to season.
Seasonal Diet Of Beavers
Beavers are known for their strong teeth capable of cutting off trees. However, beavers consume woody vegetation typically during winter. In all other months, they prefer soft vegetation, which is more readily available and easier to digest than twigs or tree bark.
In spring and throughout the warm season, beavers eat as many aquatic plants as possible. Compared to soft terrestrial vegetation, aquatic plants have higher digestibility and are richer in minerals and protein.
Preferred terrestrial vegetation includes grass, clover, watercress, berries and fallen fruits.
In fall, beavers start stashing food for winter and include other nutrient-rich foods in their diets, such as nuts, mushrooms, and even apples. Beavers that have access to vegetable gardens might also eat carrots and potatoes.
Beavers don’t hibernate and continue foraging even when the weather is cold. However, once the pond freezes, they can’t leave the lodges anymore and survive on food stored in underwater caches. The cache consists of twigs and tree branches. Their winter diet also includes any aquatic plants that are still available.
Beavers are often mistaken for otters or groundhogs, so some people believe that they are carnivores or omnivores. Nevertheless, beavers never eat meat or fish. They are strict vegetarians, their diets consisting of a variety of aquatic plants, soft vegetation, berries, fruits, twigs, and inner tree bark.
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