Eurasian beaver © David Parkyn

Ten things you didn’t know about… Beavers

The Eurasian beaver is native to Britain. Populations of the paddle-tailed aquatic mammals were once healthy here until relentless hunting for their meat, fur and scent oils drove them to extinction in the UK by the 16th century. Our partners at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are hoping to support the recovery of this marvellous mammal with an introduction of beavers on the Isle of Wight.

Here are a few things you may not know about this wonderful creature:

  1. Contrary to common belief, beavers are vegetarian – they don’t eat fish
  2. Beavers are classed as a keystone species as they have a huge influence on their habitat and the other animals and plants they live alongside. As well as benefitting other species, beaver dams can also reduce flood risk, improve water quality and attract eco-tourism
  3. Beaver teeth are orange! The unusual colour is derived from an iron-rich protective coating on the enamel that strengthens them
  4. Beaver teeth continue to grow throughout their lives to keep up with their fibre-rich diet
  5. Beavers slap their broad tails against the water to warn others of danger. When other beavers hear this alarm, they tend to seek deep water out of harm’s way. The noise may also help scare off predators
  6. Beavers can stay underwater for up to eight minutes and can swim at up to six miles per hour
  7. Beavers have a third, transparent, eyelid to protect their eyes when they swim underwater
  8. The average lifespan of a wild beaver is 7-8 years, though some have been recorded to reach 25 years old
  9. Newborn beavers are called kits and mature females typically produce a litter of two to four kits per year
  10. Beavers secrete an oily substance called castoreum, which they use to scent mark their territory. However, its former use in perfume, food and medicine contributed to the animal’s persecution and eventual extinction in the UK in the 16th century
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