The Beaver’s Food Foraging / Tree-Cutting Behavior

Beavers are one of the largest rodents in the world. These fantastic creatures have thick fur, webbed feet, and flattened tails that are useful when they forage.

They are also known for their notable dam-building abilities and unique skills in making their homes. Their sharp teeth help them to cut different sizes of trees. 

Let’s learn about these animals’ amazing tree-cutting behaviors and understand how they gather their food!

Where Do Beavers Go To Find Food?

Beavers will travel good distances to find a home near food sources to forage easily. Their diet includes the inner bark and twigs of various trees like willow, aspen, cottonwoods, oak, birch, and apple trees. 

The ideal locations of their food sources are wooded valleys and terrain with slow-moving rivers and lakes where they can establish a dam. They also prefer to stay near the river banks where they have easy access to roots, buds, and water plants.

What Foods Do Beavers Go For Other Than Wood?

If the sources of wood are scarce, beavers will eat grasses, vines, roots, shrubs, leaves, and ferns. They also like soft vegetation and aquatic plants like cattails, watercress, clovers, water lilies, sagebrush, and giant ragweed. 

They love to eat different fruits and vegetables if they are available. This is a great source of nutrients during summer. Even though they do not especially like pine, fir, and other conifers, they will still consume them if necessary.

Do Beavers Eat Where They Find Food Or Bring It Home?

Beavers can both eat where they find the food or bring it home. When beavers are still starting to establish their homes, they will eat where they find the food, as long as they feel sufficiently protected from any nearby threats. 

They are also observed to eat on the spot in the spring and beginning of summer when winter preparations are distant, and they don’t yet need to establish a  stock of food in their lodges.

Most of the time, beavers bring home the twigs, branches, and wood parts they gather in their pond. They will chew through tree logs until the tree falls and collect the woods to bring back to their home. They usually gather them to store food for winter.

Do Beavers Prepare Their Food Supply For The Winter?

Yes, beavers prepare food supplies for winter, which is an essential element of their survival. During winter, food is scarce for all animals, including the beaver’s predators. 

Preparing food supplies will lessen their encounter with hungry predators as they don’t have to leave their homes for weeks to forage for food.

Where Do Beavers Store Food?

Before winter sets in, beavers gather young sapling branches, return to their ponds, and push the sticks underwater into the mud. 

The mud will help preserve the sticks because of its cooler temperature. In addition, very little light and oxygen can reach their food underground, keeping it fresh for longer. 

The pond functions well as a freezer for their food during winter; the higher the water level, the better. 

When they need to eat, they will pick their favorite food, such as fallen twigs, willow trees, and inner aspen bark in their storage area. They will swim out of their lodge; quickly grab the food from beneath the surface, and hassle-free return home.

Do Beavers Forage Alone?

Beavers forage alone most of the time. Even though they are known for their very social traits, they will individually collect wood and other food. 

They might seek the help of their family members if they need to transport a large tree trunk. They will cut the trees into segments, using their sharp teeth, and transport them to their ponds.

How Do Beavers Pick A Tree?

Beavers will likely determine the tree they prefer to eat through its scent. They prefer deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves during winter) over conifers because of their refreshing and amber fragrance. 

The stronger the woody smell of the plant, the more inclined the beaver to choose it as their meal. In addition, trees with softer inner barks have a more appetizing taste for them (and are easier to digest), so they will try to forage them.

One of the beaver’s favorite wood trees is the aspen and willow tree. However, if these tastier trees are not abundant and available, the beavers will resort to the less preferred ones. 

How Do Beavers Cut Down Trees?

The beaver bites out chips in a deep groove as it gnaws around the base of a tree. There is a difference in how beavers cut trees on an even and flat surface.

Large trees that are near the shore are mostly leaning towards the water. The beavers carve these trees on its uphill side. The tree will fall in the direction opposite to the side of the cut. 

Since they will cut these trees on the uphill side, the tree will definitely snap and fall in the water. This will ensure their safety and easier transportation of the log since it’s already in the water. 

On a flatter surface, beavers will symmetrically gnaw around the base of the large tree, forming an hourglass-shaped pattern in the trunks, that makes it likely for the tree to fall in whichever direction the wind blows. Then, all they have to do is to wait for the entire tree to fall.

On the other hand, they are most likely to carve in a single direction when cutting smaller trees. This is more secure, because they can more easily guess where the tree will fall, and they can easily drag it.

Do Beavers Know Which Way A Tree Is Going To Fall?

Beavers will determine which direction the tree will fall by listening to the wood cracking sounds. These sounds are auditory cues that will give them clues about which way the tree will fall.

As soon as they hear the cracking sounds, they will quickly waddle away and wait for the crashing sound of the tree hitting the ground. It works most of the time, but beavers do sometimes get hit by falling trees.

Can Beavers Influence Which Way A Tree Is Going To Fall?

Beavers will try their best to make the trees fall in the direction of their pond, but they cannot fully decide which way a tree will fall. 

They don’t have the same degree of judgment as a professional human lumberjack. Trees can still fall in random directions, but during the majority of the process, they are successful in cutting the tree in the direction of the pond.

Do Beavers Get Hurt By Falling Trees?

Yes, there are a lot of instances where beavers are harmed when a tree falls in the direction they are trying to avoid. Casualties, sadly, occur when they misjudge the direction of the fall. 

But this event rarely happens because beavers don’t start cutting and eating the tree trunks before they have fallen. To make it fall, they will gnaw 75% through the base of the trunk, move away a little, and wait for the wind to knock the tree over, which means less chance of getting injured.  

How Many Trees Do Beavers Cut Down?

A single beaver can cut down an average of 200 to 300 trees annually, mainly consisting of soft-wood trees like willows and cottonwoods. 

But this can actually vary according to the size, type, and location of the tree. Most beavers can cut 1 to 5 trees daily and more for small trees and saplings.

How Do Beavers Move Big Trees Around?

To move larger trees, beavers must chop them into smaller sections until it is light enough for them to move. Beavers can “only” carry as much as their own body weight (40 to 70 pounds). They will carry each piece, one at a time, by pulling them with their teeth.

Once the tree has been cut into smaller pieces, the beaver will carry each piece by dragging it with its teeth. They will move the tree one branch, or section at a time to the location of their lodge or dam.

How Far Can A Beaver Drag A Tree?

Beavers choose a home with plenty of materials, so they don’t have to drag branches and tree trunks for long distances. This way, they can safely access food by swimming close to the tree and quickly returning to the water. 

Sometimes, beavers travel substantial distances to gather materials for their dam. This rarely happens and will occur only when they don’t have enough resources nearby.

What Part Of The Tree Do Beavers Eat?

Beavers do not eat the hard core of the wooden stems. The parts they eat are the soft, outer parts of the stem, as well as the inner bark. They only chew the harder core to prevent their teeth from growing too long.  

Beavers will also gnaw and strip away the hard outer barks until the tree exposes the inner bark and softer wood, their favorite part. They will also chew off branches, fruits, stems, buds, and leaves which they gladly consume. 

Beavers have a particular microorganism in their guts that helps digest most of the wooden fibers or cellulose in their diet. This is what enables them to eat bark and wood in the first place, and support their herbivorous diet.

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