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Beaver Cut Tree

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Photo of beaver
Castor canadensis
Castoridae (beavers) in the order Rodentia

A large rodent associated with waterways and wetlands, the beaver has webbed hind feet; a large, relatively hairless, horizontally flattened tail; a blunt head; small eyes and ears; a short neck and a stout body. The color is a uniform dark brown above with lighter underparts and a blackish tail.

Total length: 34–54 inches; tail length: 9–17 inches; weight: 26–90 pounds.
Habitat and conservation: 
In Missouri, beavers live in and along streams, rivers, marshes, and small lakes. Though they are well-known for dam building, in Missouri they are less likely to construct dams than in regions farther west and north. Instead, in our faster and fluctuating streams, they usually excavate a den in a high bank. In both lodges and bankside dens, the entrance is usually below water. Beaver restoration efforts have brought their numbers to levels allowing an annual harvest.
In spring and fall, beavers eat woody and nonwoody vegetation. In summer, mostly nonwoody plants are eaten; in winter, mostly woody foods are eaten. Woody foods include the bark, new twigs, and new bark growth of a variety of trees and woody vines ranging from willow and cottonwood to oaks, hickories, sycamores and wild grapevines. Nonwoody foods include corn, pond lilies, watercress and many other herbaceous plants.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Beavers occur throughout the state near streams and wetlands. They are least common in the Mississippi Lowlands.
Despite an extreme reduction in their colonies by about 1900, Missouri’s beaver population has been reestablished throughout the state.
Life cycle: 
Beavers are usually nocturnal but may also come out in the daytime, especially in fall when they are busy gathering food and preparing their dams and lodges for winter. They live in colonies--family groups consisting of an adult male and female and their yearlings and kits. Breeding begins in January and February, and a single litter of usually 3 or 4 young is born in April, May or June. The young are weaned after about 6 weeks but remain with the family for about 2 years.
Human connections: 
Beavers are harvested for their furs, which are used in coats and trimmings. Beaver meat is relished by some. In the past, beaver fur, meat, and oil were immensely important in attracting both Native Americans and European settlers to our region.
Ecosystem connections: 
The historic value of beaver damming is hard to estimate in light of their long-term impact on stream flow, creation of ponds, and causing silt to settle and create fertile valleys. This development of new habitats has a profound effect on the many other plants and animals requiring such conditions.
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