Beavers are one of the largest rodents in the world – and, not that looks matter, they also happen to be one of the cutest. While beavers the size of bears once roamed north America, they were out-competed by their tiny brethren whom we have come to know and love today. A product of a happy monogamous relationship, beavers are the epitome of wholesome hardworking folk, but what do we call a baby beaver?
Baby beavers are called “kits”. Born in the spring months, little ones are called "yearlings" when they reach a year old. Joining beavers in the kit category are:
True to their adorable nature, kits will be raised by both their parents in a semi-submerged dwelling called a lodge, where up to three generations of siblings form what’s known as a colony. Female beavers can give birth to up to six kits each year, so conditions in the lodge can get pretty cramped.
These fluffy workaholics are born with all their fur and the very beginnings of their 25-millimeter (nearly 1-inch) teeth. Kits are even able to swim just 24 hours after being born, taking their first intrepid steps out of the lodge at around three to four weeks.
After two to three years of domestic bliss in their family home, the kits will head out into the world to find their own life partner and swanky digs.
The humble beaver, however, is more than just a pretty face. Classed as “ecosystem engineers” they are constantly hard at work maintaining, changing, and enhancing their environment. Beavers are a keystone species, filling an ecological niche whereby their individual impact on their habitat is larger than most organisms.
Not only do beavers use trees as building material for their dams and lodges, trees are also an on-the-job snack as beavers are one of the few mammals that can digest cellulose.
Beavers build large dams – up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) high – by weaving branches together and patting in mud to create a waterproof barrier. Changing the flow of water creates large pools or ponds, the perfect refuge and feeding ground for a beaver colony.
By altering the flow of rivers and streams, beavers can flood large areas of land. When these semi-permeable structures get abandoned and eventually erode, what’s left of the once flooded waterbed becomes a highly fertile meadow.
The build-up of sediment and debris caused by the dams also changes the chemical composition of the environment: increasing carbon and decreasing nitrogen in the environment diversifies the ecosystem. These newly created standing water sources also encourage new and different species into the area.
While beavers are no longer considered an endangered species, they are still under threat from deforestation and urbanization of their native areas. Our relationship with beavers is mutually beneficial, and we stand to gain a lot by making sure they stick around.