Beavers often get confused for river otters and minks. Both river otters and minks are carnivorous, so many people believe beavers are carnivorous too. However, beavers are peaceful, herbivorous animals that spend their time floating on water, building dams, or munching on trees. These rodents are not predators, but what eats beavers? Where are they in the food chain?
Adult beavers have few predators, including wolves, coyotes, bears, wild cats, and mountain lions. Baby beavers are much more vulnerable and often seen as prey by a number of other carnivorous animals. Otters, wolverines, foxes, and even snakes, hawks, and owls feed on them. However, beavers master the art of hide-and-seek and often manage to escape predatory advances.
Here is a list of predators which eat beavers in the wild:
- Mountain lions
- Wild cats
- Scavenger species
Wolves are widely known for hunting in packs and preferring larger prey. However, beavers are easy prey for lone and hungry wolves looking to supplement their nutrition.
Gray wolves are the main Eurasian beaver predators, but North American beavers are also hunted by wolves. Not only are they faster than the rodents, but they also know how to injure a beaver to immobilize, if not kill it on the spot. Sometimes, wolves are responsible for the mass killing of kits following their parents on land.
A study has also shown that wolf packs sometimes use a hunting strategy to ambush the beavers by cutting off their access to water.
While American wolves hunt beavers, the main North American beaver predators are the coyotes. Coyotes are similar to gray wolves but smaller in size. They have an acute sense of smell and keen vision that enables them to spot the rodents from a distance.
These senses combined with speeds of up to 40 miles an hour make beavers easy prey for the hungry predators. Like wolves, coyotes can hunt beavers only on land. Thus, they mostly feed on beavers in late summer and fall, when the rodents spend time gathering food for winter.
Beavers aren’t high on a bear’s preference, but a hungry bear that happens to stumble upon a beaver would kill and eat it. Bears and beavers generally come in contact in the wetlands, where the predator goes to catch fish.
Otters, like beavers, are semi-aquatic animals. They feed on fish and generally have a peaceful relationship with the beavers.
In fact, most river otters live around beaver ponds, taking advantage of the dams that keep fish contained.
While otters are carnivorous, they are relatively small in size and rarely attack adult beavers. However, otters will often invade beaver lodges in search of shelter. This behavior puts kits at risk – in fact, otters sometimes kill and eat baby beavers if the fish supply drops.
Like otters, wolverines are part of the weasel family. They inhabit the colder climate areas of the US and Canada and are voracious predators. They prey mostly on rabbits and other land rodents and are also scavengers, eating the carcasses of larger animals like elk or deer when food is scarce.
While wolverines have a different habitat than beavers and otters, they will hunt and eat beavers that cross their paths.
6. Mountain lions
The large cat species native to the Americas inhabits a variety of ecosystems, from mountains to deserts to wetlands.
Like most cats, mountain lions are strict carnivores. They generally consume larger prey, such as deer. However, they also feed on smaller animals and even insects when necessary.
While mountain lions prefer not to get wet, they are very good swimmers. They hunt beavers on land and can follow them in water. Although they can’t enter a beaver’s den, mountain lions are generally fast enough to catch the unlucky rodent.
7. Wild cats
Mountain lions aren’t the only big cat species that feed on beavers. Eurasian beavers also have a range of feline predators, including the lynx. Bobcats also eat beavers if given the opportunity.
Not only can these big cats follow their prey in the water, but they could sleep on the trees beavers decide to cut – this makes beavers an easy prey for wild felines.
Both American and Eurasian beavers also fear foxes. Not all fox species hunt rodents, but red foxes are some of the beavers’ main predators. Unlike wolves and coyotes, foxes don’t hunt in packs and rarely attack larger herbivores.
The beaver is smaller than a red fox and doesn’t have good dexterity on land, making it a perfect prey for the reddish predator.
In addition to mammals, beavers also have aviary predators. Hawks are fearless birds of prey that hunt almost all small animals. While beavers generally tend to blend into the environment, hawks have incredible eyesight and zero problems in spotting the rodent from their advantage point. Hawks – and eagles – attack adult and baby beavers alike.
Beavers are often seen being active during the day, but the truth is that they are primarily nocturnal animals. Owls are also nocturnal, and like hawks, they have an advantage point and incredibly sharp vision. Together with their acute hearing, these senses allow owls to detect beavers from a distance.
Owls are opportunistic predators, but they are also efficient hunters. They can catch beavers both on land and in water.
11. Scavenger species
In addition to the predators above, you may be curious what eats dead beavers. Among the scavenger species, we can mention vultures, ravens, and wolverines. Foxes, coyotes, and wolves are not scavengers, but they could also feed on beaver carrions if food is scarce.
Are Beavers Endangered?
Beavers are not endangered, but they used to be and are currently protected as furbearers in most areas. This means that beavers can no longer be hunted or trapped for their fur. It is also illegal for landowners to shoot beavers without a license unless they are on their land.
Since the beaver is not considered an endangered species, they can still be harvested but only through trapping and only in open season. Game eaters consider the beaver one of the most palatable furbearing animals.
That said, reintroducing beavers in all areas where they used to live is crucial for the restoration of wetland habitats.
Wetlands are home to thousands of species, including terrestrial animals, birds, amphibians, and fish. Restoring these areas means restoring the natural balance of the wild habitat. Thus, contacting beaver sanctuaries and relocating them from your land is a more humane and wiser solution in the long run.
Beaver Food Chain
Wondering where a beaver stands in the food chain? You should understand the food chain hierarchy first.
Food chains have five levels. The first one is represented by plants, which are the primary producers of energy. The second level is constituted by primary consumers, which are herbivores. The primary consumers eat the plants and provide nutrition to the secondary and tertiary consumers (third and fourth trophic levels).
The secondary consumers feed on herbivores but do not generally hunt or eat other carnivores. This category includes small carnivores like foxes. While these animals don’t hunt larger predators, they can become scavengers and feed on all animal carcasses. Secondary consumers are not only predators; they are also prey for larger carnivores.
Tertiary consumers are large carnivores that feed on both primary and secondary consumers. They are hunted by apex predators.
Apex predators constitute the final (fifth) level of the trophic chain. These are animals that have no known predators. They hunt animals from all other levels. In this category, we can mention bears, wild cats, wolves, eagles, and alligators.
As herbivores, beavers are primary consumers. They feed on plants and are seen as prey by carnivores on all other levels.
We hope you’ve learned a lot from our article on what eats beavers.
Beavers are pacific creatures and crucial species for maintaining and restoring wetland habitats. As herbivores, beavers have numerous predators. However, their aquatic lifestyle provides protection from most terrestrial carnivores.
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