After only researching three Snapple facts, I found Snapple “Real fact” #3 to be false. Snapple “Real Fact” #3 claims, Beavers can hold their breath for 45 minutes underwater. I researched four sites which, between them, state that a beaver can hold its breath for 10 to 20 minutes. I am partial to the information on National Geographic’s website, which reads, “Beavers can remain underwater for 15 minutes without surfacing”. The other facts I read about beavers during my research were truly fascinating.
Beavers are second only to humans in their ability to change the landscape, and by doing so they create rich, watery habitats, known as wetlands, for other mammals. Wetlands have been rated as the world’s most valuable land-based ecosystem and are equal to rain forests and coral reefs in the biodiversity they support. Almost half of the endangered and threatened species in North America rely on wetlands.
I always thought of beavers and the dams they make as an unwanted nuisance but this is a common misconception. By building dams, beavers make and maintain wetlands for free. The wetlands alleviate droughts and large scale flooding, lessen erosion, raise the water table and even purify water. Silt is collected upstream from older beaver dams and toxins are broken down by microbes in the wetlands, making water that is cleaner and requiring less treatment for human use.
Beavers don’t do all of these wonderful things on purpose. Their main goal with raising the water level with their dams is to create a deep moat to protect their lodge from predators and provide underwater access to their lodges and a food storage area that won’t freeze in Northern climates. Since beavers don’t hibernate, their lodges provide a warm, safe place with underwater access to their iced-up pond, with a cache of branches that can sustain them for four months or more, until spring arrives again.
The fact I found most amazing is that beavers mate for life during their third year. Both parents care for between 1 and 4 kits, which are born in the spring. They stay with their parents for 2 years and the yearlings act as babysitters for the new litter. Beavers are very territorial and will not allow an unrelated beaver to enter its pond. There is no threat of over-population because beavers have only one litter per year and have many predators, including coyotes, wolves, bears, hawks, eagles, owls and humans.
In captivity a beaver may live up to 30 years but their average life span in the wild is up to 24 years. Beavers are North America’s largest rodent and an adult beaver weighs between 45-60lbs. They are herbivores and dine on water lily tubers, apples, leaves and green bark from fast-growing trees, using the peeled sticks to build their tee pee-like lodges. Their teeth continue to grow their entire lives since their constant chewing wears down their teeth, and their pruning stimulates trees to re-grow bushier next spring.
Beavers spend most of their time in the water and can swim up to 5 miles per hour with their large webbed hind feet. Their most distinctive feature is their large, flat tail, which acts as a rudder when swimming, a prop when sitting or standing, stores fat for winter and is used to warn other beavers of danger by slapping it on the surface of the water. They rely on their excellent sense of hearing and smell rather than their less developed eyesight.
When swimming underwater, a transparent membrane covers their eyes, and flaps close to keep water out of their nostrils and ears. They also have inner lips behind their teeth so they can carry sticks without getting water in their mouths. Their thick fur is naturally oily and waterproof.
To read more about beavers, visit my resources listed below, and as always, feel free to leave a comment at the end of the article! Thanks for your interest.