Print Posted By Lost in France on 21 Feb 2006 in Wildlife - Wildlife and nature in France

The European Beaver

The European BeaverThe European Beaver Castor fiber was once hunted to virtual extinction for its fur and also for a secretion from its scent gland called castoreum which was used for its medicinal properties as it contained salicylic acid which is a constituent of today's modern aspirin. Today the Beaver is making a slight come back and has been reintroduced to some parts of France. It is more commonly found around the Rhone river basin in France.

The European beaver is a shy and secretive creature it belongs to the rodent family and is mostly nocturnal and semi aquatic. It is largest of the native European rodents measuring a meter or more in length including its tail and can weigh as much as 30kg.

It lives entirely on plant material and has a wide head and very thick dark reddish brown waterproof fur, its powerful tail is flat and scaled and is used as an aid to swimming. Their large powerfull cutting teeth are coloured orange and they are used for felling trees to construct their dams and the lodges that they live in.

The Beaver's dam The Beavers hind legs are longer than its front legs and have webbed toes for swimming. They are family orientated and tend to live in small groups, often in burrows in river banks or by constructing a "lodge" from branches, tree trunks, twigs and mud. The lodge has a room above the water level which they use to live in and raise their young, and a store for winter food below the water level and also emergency exits. If the water level is not deep enough in the area they decide to build their lodge they will often construct a dam from trees they fell by using their incisor teeth.

The beavers territory usually covers a range of up to 4 km of river bank , they mark their territory by using their scent glands which are located underneath their tails. If alarmed or frightened the beaver will slap its tail against the surface of the water after which it will dive beneath the surface, this acts as an alarm signal for other beavers and warns them of possible danger.

A Beaver swimmingThe beaver is entirely herbivorous and its diet consists of grasses, water plants, ferns and woody plants such as shrubs and trees. The beaver spends most of its time in or near the water and will rarely travel more than a 100 or so meters away from the waters edge. Because its teeth are continuously growing the beaver will often gnaw at trees to keep its teeth in check.

Beavers tend to pair for life and the family groups often consist of  young adults from the previous year plus the present years "kits". Mating takes place in late winter with the young born with their eyes open and covered with fur in the late spring. Female reach breeding age at around 3 years and will stay with the group till then whilst males are normally made to leave the nest at about 2 years old.

Lifespan is around 10 - 20 years and up to 30 in captivity.

French for Beaver - Castor

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