Despite the vastness of the animal kingdom, there are a handful of creatures that are more well-known and respected than others. It is hard to say if beavers fall into both of these categories, but there is no denying that they are widely known. There is also no denying that they play a key role in the ecosystem.
In fact, most people just don’t realize how important the beaver is. That being said, there are some animals that consume strictly plant matter, while there are some that only consume meats or other animals.
Heck, there are some that even consume a mixture of both, but it is the beaver that are prime examples of vegetarians. So, What do beavers eat?
Beavers only eat plant matter and are considered herbivores. They are large rodents that certainly enjoy a wide range of vegetation. It’s not at all uncommon to find them snacking on anything from twigs to foliage, bark, and other aquatic plants.
Do Beavers Eat Wood
The beaver doesn’t consistently live on tree bark. Sure, they are constantly utilizing tree bark to build dams and homes for themselves, which means they likely have a ready supply at hand, but this isn’t the only thing that they’ll consume.
In fact, they like to change with the changing of the seasons. And, as far as bark goes, it is typically the inner bark of the trees that beavers prefer. Most people are under the assumption that beavers actually eat trees or the entire bark off trees. This isn’t the case at all. It is only the inner bark of the trees that these creatures are after.
It is the inner tree barks that they will opt for during the winter months when other food supplies are scarce. However, even during the summer months half of their diet probably still consist of inner tree bark.
So, you can see that inner tree bark plays a major role in the beaver’s diet, regardless of the seasons. During the summer months, they’ll only eat about 10 percent plant life. The rest of the time they will seek out aspen trees. However, they are certainly no strangers to black cheery, beech, maple, alder, and birch trees.
Beavers not only enjoy the inner bark of a tree but they also commonly feast on what is known as the cambium of the tree. This is the very soft and smooth layer located right below the bark.
[Related Article: Can You Eat Beaver Tail?]
Beavers And Woody Plants
Beavers are also common purveyors of all kinds of woody plants. However, here is a really interesting side note. When it comes to woody plants, the beaver doesn’t just stop at the bark and cambium.
No, they’ll eat the twigs and foliage of these trees as well. This is especially true when it comes to red maples, willows, and aspens. These are just among some of the beaver’s favorite. When available, you can rest assured that these are the trees and plants that they’ll choose over others.
During The Warmer Months
You already learned that a beaver likes to change his appetite with the changing of the seasons. Despite this, it will still be the inner tree bark that makes up the biggest portion of the beaver’s meals. That being said, it isn’t copious amounts of woody plants that they prefer during those long summer months.
It is the aquatic plants along with the sedge plants that they’ll seek out. Rhizomes, pondweeds, bulrush, cattails, and water lilies are just a couple of their summer favorite. During other parts of the summer and near spring time they like to include a hefty mixture of ferns, leaves, and grasses into their daily regimen.
Beavers And Fish
Beavers are big swimmers and they are constantly around the water. Heck, this is where they live most of the time, setting up dams and whatnot. Given this fact, you’d think that they’d prefer fish. They would likely have a ready supply at their disposal at all times, and they certainly wouldn’t have a problem catching them because beavers are natural swimmers.
They are just as adept in the water as a fish itself. That being said, fish are generally totally safe and secure when in the presence of beavers.
In fact, the two species live in harmony because the beaver actually helps out the fish. They do this by consuming the aquatic plants in the water. This in return helps spruce up the fish’s living environments.
Beavers And Their Healthy Appetites
To the human and other larger animals, the beaver might seem small, but it really is a good-sized rodent. In fact, you could probably classify it as one of the larger rodents.
And, you better believe that their size comes along with a hefty appetite as well. It is estimated that an entire beaver family can consume right around 300 trees a year. Given that a family would only consist of 3 or 4 beavers, this might seem kind of destructive. A lot of small logging operations don’t take down 300 trees a year.
While they might be treacherous to trees, it is important to note that beavers are shrewd creatures.
The Shrewd Beaver
Despite destroying 300 trees a year, the beaver utilizes every part of the tree that he cuts down. While they might only consume some of the twigs, foliage, and inner bark, they will utilize every part of that tree to build dams.
And, what’s even more helpful to the environment is that many of these dams serve as a habitat for a variety of creatures. These dams can serve as an endpoint that will block water, creating a small pond, which certain animals can use for drinking.
Many creatures would be affected negatively if beavers lost their lodges.
You can see that the beaver is an essential component of the ecosystem. They contribute to the survival of many other species, and given the fact that they don’t eat meat, other animals are completely safe around these large rodents.
While the might seem destructive, destroying 300 trees a year, they make up for this by utilizing every part of these trees to build dams. Dams that ensure the survival of other species.