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Beaver Life History & Biology. Dr. John Stella Anna Harrison SUNY ESF 19 th September 2011. The Colony. Family/colony unit (6-8 related individuals) Active colonies spaced at least 0.25 miles from other colonies Mark territory with scent mounds. L ove of the water.

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beaver life history biology

Beaver Life History & Biology

Dr. John Stella

Anna Harrison


19th September 2011

the colony
The Colony
  • Family/colony unit (6-8 related individuals)
  • Active colonies spaced at least 0.25 miles from other colonies
  • Mark territory with scent mounds
l ove of the water
Love of the water

Lodge is the central place for a beaver colony

Beaver more agile in water than on land

Aquatic habitat protects them from predators

Attempt to maximize time in water, minimize time on land

food preferences
Food preferences

Spring/Summer diet: herbaceous, aquatic vegetation

Fall/Winter diet: trees and tubers

Beaver collect food for winter in food cache, store next to lodge

i nitial site establishment
Initial site establishment
  • Well established drivers (Bradt 1938) that create largest possible pond area:
    • Low stream gradient
    • Small stream cross-sectional area
beaver site establishment
Beaver site establishment
  • Dams also built as ‘safe’ transportation corridors to connect large ponds
beaver site establishment1
Beaver site establishment
  • Ultimate purpose of dam: location for lodge
beaver impacts landscape change
Beaver Impacts: landscape change
  • Beaver change landscape from terrestrial to aquatic
  • Most landscape change occurs in first 20 years of occupancy
beaver impacts increase wetland area
Beaver impacts: increase wetland area
  • Greater landscape diversity
    • Wright 2002
  • Waterfowl habitat
  • Amphibian habitat
    • Karraker and Gibbs 2009



New Pond



Old Pond

Beaver impacts: Possible beaver pond succession post abandonment


Naiman 1988

beaver impacts forest structure
Beaver impacts: forest structure
  • Trees used for food anddam/lodge building resources
  • Beaver can ‘clear cut’ areas with young trees


beaver impacts forest structure1
Beaver impacts: forest structure
  • Remove understory and canopy trees
  • Open areas up to shrubby species
beaver impacts foraging
Generalized Central place foraging model


Most Preferred




Distance from the impoundment

Beaver Impacts: foraging
ecosystem engineer slides

Ecosystem Engineer slides

I’m not sure if/where you’ll want to use these, but they are a good example of culvert blockage, flooding, dam removal and beaver deceiver at HWF

ecosystem engineer
Ecosystem engineer

Photo: Adirondack Ecological Center


Ecosystem engineer


Photo: Adirondack Ecological Center