What Do Beavers Eat? The Definitive Guide (8+ Foods)

A beaver eating an apple
Beaver in water, eating an apple. Photo: Niklas Jeromin / Pexels

Beavers are the largest rodents in North America and Eurasia. Architects of the animal world, beavers are aquatic mammals. You can often see them floating around bodies of water, and their specialty is creating new wetland habitats. It is exactly their relationship with the water that leads many to believe that beavers eat fish and other aquatic animals. But is that true? What do beavers eat in the wild?

Like most species in their order, beavers are herbivores and eat plants. Contrary to popular belief, they do not eat meat, fish, or insects. A beaver’s diet consists mostly of bark, leaves, and twigs. When food is scarce, they can eat crops, including corn and apples.

Here is a list of what beavers eat for food:

  • Bark
  • Leaves
  • Twigs
  • Shrubs
  • Fern
  • Aquatic plants
  • Grass
  • Crops

1. Bark

Most of the beaver’s diet is made up of bark and cambium, which is the soft tissue that grows under the bark of a tree. However, even if their specialized digestive systems help them digest cellulose, bark and cambium are generally foods that beavers eat in the winter.

The rodents tend to eat the same type of trees they use for building dams. These types include aspen, poplar, willow, maple, and birch. In addition to these preferred types, beavers also eat the bark of alder, oak, black cherry, and apple trees.

2. Leaves

In the warmer months, beavers change their diet to include the leaves of the woody plants they enjoy eating. Leaves are also the main weaning food fed to baby beavers.

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Like all mammals, mother beavers feed their newborn kits milk. The weaning period starts when the youngsters are two to three weeks old. During this phase, the entire family works together to bring the young fresh leaves and twigs to nibble on.

3. Twigs

Alongside leaves and bark, beavers also nibble on twigs and branches. The rodents generally line the bottom of their lodges with twigs and branches in the fall before the water freezes. These stashes of food provide beavers with the nutrition they need during the coldest months when they spend most of the time inside the lodges. Beavers do not hibernate and use these supplies to survive winter.

4. Shrubs

Shrubs aren’t a beaver’s preferred food, but they will eat them in addition to bark and twigs in colder periods.

5. Fern

In the summer months, beavers also eat numerous soft foods in addition to bark, twigs, and tree leaves. Ferns are generally abundant in the wild beaver’s natural habitats near ponds or lakes. Thus, they make an easy choice for the rodents.

6. Aquatic plants

As explained above, beavers are aquatic mammals. They spend a lot of time in the water and often feed on aquatic plants during summer. Beavers prefer cattails, pondweed, and water lilies. However, they will eat almost any type of aquatic plant that’s available.

7. Grass

The grass is another type of soft vegetation beavers eat in the warm months. Like the leaves and water plants, grass provides easier access to nutrients, especially for the youngsters. In addition to grass, beavers also eat clover, watercress, blackberry vines, wild fennel, and mushrooms.

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8. Crops

Beavers have strict feeding habits and don’t raid garbage bins or steal food from humans. However, if food is scarce, they could eat crops, including corn and beans.

Most beavers would also eat apples alongside the bark and cambium of apple trees. The rodents will most likely find food in orchards located near their natural habitat. It is more likely to find beavers in an orchard during long winters after their food stashes have been depleted.

9. Wood

Beavers are known for their ability to cut down trees using nothing but their teeth. For this reason, many people believe that beavers eat wood. However, beavers don’t eat every part of the tree. They only eat the bark and cambium, not the wood.

While beavers might swallow small bits of wood as they chew the bark off the tree, they generally allow large pieces to fall from their mouths.

How Much Do Beavers Eat A Day?

A beaver’s eating habits change from summer to winter. In the warm season, beavers consume larger quantities of food to build up enough fat for the winter. An adult beaver can eat up to 4.4 pounds of food each day.

In the cold season, beavers reduce their caloric intake, mainly due to poor food availability. The consumption drops to under 1.9 pounds a day, or even less in the harsh periods when they start eating the stashed food. The daily intake is divided into several meals.

Do Beavers Eat Meat?

Beavers are strictly herbivores, and they do not eat meat. A beaver’s diet is strictly vegetarian, so they will not eat fish or insects either.

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The best foods to feed a rescued beaver include apples, corn, soybeans, or other types of beans, grass, clove, tree leaves, and even small twigs and tree bark.

What Is a Beaver’s Favorite Food?

A beaver’s favorite food changes with the season. Most beavers like to eat soft vegetation in the summer. Aquatic plants like water lilies and cattails are high on the list of preferences. Ferns, grass, and cloves are also preferred.

While beavers can cut trees easily, they only do so when soft vegetation becomes scarce or to build dams and lodges.

If a tree is cut for building purposes, the beaver will likely feed on its leaves and bark. Twigs and branches constitute cold-weather food – beavers stash them in their “pantries.”

The trees that beavers prefer to eat include aspen, poplar, willow, maple, and birch. However, most beavers will also eat bark from other trees, such as black cherries, apples, alder, cottonwood, and even hazel.

If food is scarce, beavers will sometimes eat conifers and other evergreens.

To End

Beavers like to eat soft plant foods such as leaves, grass, ferns, apples, and even corn and beans. Their unique gut microbiome allows them to digest cellulose. Thus, beavers also eat tree bark and twigs.

However, they don’t eat wood, meat, fish, or insects. Whether you want to help feed the beavers in your area during winter or look for the perfect diet for a rescued beaver, we hope this guide can help you understand what a beaver’s preferred diet is.

Read More About Beavers:

  1. Do Beavers Eat Fish?
  2. Do Beavers Eat Meat?
  3. Do Beavers Eat Wood?
  4. What Eats Beavers?
  5. Do Beavers Hibernate or Migrate In Winter?

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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