Picture of a beaver - what do they eat?

What Do Beavers Eat? The Answer May Surprise You

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Beavers are one of the most common rodents that you can find in North America, typically found around wetlands and marshes. Next to the capybara, they’re the second-largest living rodent in the world! But what do beavers eat when they’re not building a dam?

If you’ve been interested in learning more about a beaver’s diet, we’re here to help. Read on for more information on Mother Nature’s construction workers.

What Do Beavers Eat?

Beavers do eat some amount of wood, but it isn’t their primary food source. Much of the wood they consume is from chomping down trees, but they’ll purposefully eat the softer bark or interior of trees. Other than that, here are some of the many things a beaver will eat:

  • Leaves and twigs
  • Shrubs
  • Lilies
  • Cattails
  • Pondweed
  • Aquatic plants
  • Aspen, Birch, Alder, Willow, and Cottonwood trees

What Are Beavers?

Beavers are herbivores, meaning they’ll stick to eating plants and flora. They’re most known for their large teeth and construction habits of making dams. Many believe that beavers eat wood, given their time spent chewing trees, but there’s much more to their diet!

How Do Beavers Hunt?

As herbivores, beavers don’t hunt in the same way carnivorous creatures do. They’ll often prowl the shore of lakes to get to aquatic plants that grow there, such as the undersides of lily pads and cattails.

Beavers are most often found chomping down a tree so that they can get at the foliage at the top. Once the tree is down, the beavers move to eat the leaves as a ready-to-eat salad before turning to the inner bark.

When winter comes around, beavers will make a lodge to store food. They build their lodges on the water and line the bottom with fresh tree branches. When the water freezes over, they swim to their lodges to eat the branches they’ve stored.

How Much Does a Beaver Eat?

During the summer, a beaver eats about four pounds of food. When winter comes, they cut this in half to only about two pounds. This is because food is more scarce, and they need less energy, as they spend most of the winter in their lodges.

What Eats Beavers?

Unfortunately, humans are one of the most common hunters of beavers. They’re often sold as novelties for their tails and furs. Past humans, beavers still have plenty of predators.

Most of their predators are common forest creatures. Coyotes, bobcats, and foxes will try to snatch a beaver from the water when they get a chance. Otters are also known to hunt down beavers when they can. From the air, great-horned owls will often try to swoop down for a beaver.

Tips from Our Vets

Though it may seem weird to try to identify different animals’ feces, there are many cases where you may need to do exactly that.

Many home and property owners come across animal feces and are concerned about what animals may be lurking. Being able to identify the feces that wildlife and rodents leave behind will not only let you know what animals are in the area, but also can give clues as to how many of them are present.

At first, it can be distressing to find foreign looking animal feces in your home or on your property. Fears of aggressive or rabid animals, as well as the diseases they may carry are often the first worries.

Protecting your family and pets is of utmost importance. However, taking the time to correctly identify the feces is essential in assessing the threat or risk from the animals.

This research will also enable a home or property owner to devise an effective strategy for keeping any pest animals out of their homes, barns, or other areas where they are not welcome.

Scat Identification Techniques

  1. The first thing to do if you come across scat, or feces from animals, is to observe the location of the droppings. Notice where the feces are in relation to buildings, other structures, other animals, water, roads, and vegetation. Different animals will place their droppings in particular locations and this can be the first clue to identifying them.
  2. Next, observe the placement of the scat. Are the feces hidden or buried? Are they randomly dropped all over an area with seemingly little regard for placement, or are they tucked away in corners or neat piles? These factors can greatly narrow down the list of possible culprits.
  3. Note the size of the scat. If you are investigating feces found in your home or on your property, it is a good idea to obtain a ruler or tape measure that you can use to measure. Some animals’ feces may look identical to others from the same family, and size may be the only distinguishing feature. *REMEMEBR: animal feces can carry both diseases and parasites so they should never be handled without gloves.*
  4. What is the shape of the found fecal matter? Some shape characteristics to look for include if the feces are round, tapered at the ends, completely tubular, round pellets, twisted, or moist mounds.
  5. An additional clue to the species of animal leaving the scat is what is included in the feces. Berries, hair, seeds, and plant parts should all be looked for in the droppings. This information can be used to identify the animal that left it.
  6. Lastly, look around the area where you first identified the scat. In cases of feces from animals that have similar appearing feces to another species, it can be helpful to search for nearby footprints or tracks left by the animals. This can be used to confirm species.

Final Thoughts

So, what do beavers eat? Nature’s construction workers will often nibble on the inner bark of trees, preferring Aspen over others. They also will munch on water plants like lilies, cattails, and pondweed. In the winter, they eat much less, relying on the wood they’ve stored.

For more information on your favorite animals, be sure to browse our site to learn more!

If you’re looking for more information on animal diets, we created a guide to human foods dogs can and can’t eat, and you can also check out our resources on the diets of various animals below:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.