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Temporal range: Late Miocene - Recent
American Beaver, C. canadensis
A beaver is a kind of large rodent. It is semi-aquatic, meaning some of the time it lives in water, some of the time it lives on land. Beavers can only be found in North America and Europe. In Europe, they almost became extinct (died off), but they are returning. There are beavers living in the Elbe and Rhone rivers, as well as in Bavaria, Poland and Scandinavia. Beavers are known for building and keeping dams in rivers.
Kinds of beavers
Currently there are two different species of beaver, the American beaver (C. canadensis) and the European beaver (C. fiber).
The American beaver
This beaver can be found in North America, in Canada, the United States and in Northern Mexico. It is the second largest rodent in the world, and the largest found in North America. The largest rodent of the world is the capybara from South America.
The European beaver
The European beaver is currently an endangered species. It was hunted almost to extinction. This was done because of its fur, and because of castoreum. Castoreum is made by a certain gland, which is also responsible for the smell of the animal. People are currently (2007) reintroducing the beaver, because the important role of the beaver for the ecology of rivers was discovered. Beaver dams (or the small lakes that form) provide a habitat for many species.
Early visitors that met Native Americans saw them wearing animal skin blankets. The fur on these blankets were good for felting. The Europeans wanted felt hats, and the Native Americans wanted metal: so, fur trading began.
Beaver was the most popular fur for hats. At that time in North America, there were about sixty million beavers. Only the soft inside fur was used for felting. The best time for collecting the beaver's fur was winter, when the fur was thickest. It was also a good time to hunt, since the beaver stayed close to its home in the winter and was easy to catch. The fur trade gave money to the European traders. The Indians who caught the beavers got the metal tools and other high technology items they wanted, until the beavers were mostly gone.
A (European) beaver in Norway
- MacDonald & Cook (2000). Castor canadensis. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on May 12, 2006.
- Castor canadensis (TSN 180212). Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Accessed on March 18 2006.
- Ecology of the Beaver Archived 2020-02-17 at the Wayback Machine
- Canadian Heritage - the beaver as a national symbol
- The romance of the beaver; being the history of the beaver in the western hemisphere, by A. Radclyffe Dugmore. Illustrated with photographs from life and drawings by the author. Publisher: Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott company; London, W. Heinemann 1914 (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries)