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Discover Nature: Beavers Are Active Now

Glenn Chambers / Missouri Department of Conservation

Can you name a common Missouri animal that is also one of the least visible? This week on Discover Nature we learn more about beavers.

If you have ever spent time walking near creaks or rivers, you have probably seen beaver cuttings, but few have seen the critter behind the toothmarks. The largest of North American rodents, an adult beaver can weigh from 40 to 60 pounds. It has a scaly, flat tail that serves as a rudder while swimming and a prop while the beaver chips at trees.

Although beavers are active in all seasons, winter is a good time to observe signs of these able construction workers.  Beavers eat tree bark, especially from young trees.  They may cut down a large tree simply to feed on the tender bark of its branches.  After chewing off the bark, they use the peeled limbs to construct lodges and dams.

When they build dams, beavers change the landscape dramatically, and the changes promote their survival.  On land, beavers move slowly and awkwardly.  In water, they are agile and adept swimmers, and can make quick retreats from predators that could also overtake them on foot.  In water, beavers can easily transport food and building supplies.  As their dam backs up water over a wide area, beavers ensure safe and easy access to more and more trees.

Prized for their fur, beavers were exterminated in Missouri by 1915. However, through restoration efforts of the Conservation Department, beavers now thrive all throughout the state.

Learn more about identification of beavers and their habits online.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Trevor serves as KBIA’s weekday morning host for classical music. He has been involved with local radio since 1990, when he began volunteering as a music and news programmer at KOPN, Columbia's community radio station. Before joining KBIA, Trevor studied social work at Mizzou and earned a masters degree in geography at the University of Alabama. He has worked in community development and in urban and bicycle/pedestrian planning, and recently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his wife, Lisa Groshong. An avid bicycle commuter and jazz fan, Trevor has cycled as far as Colorado and pawed through record bins in three continents.
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