Moving on through Canada, LazyPaw Animal Hospitals is on a hunt for beavers! No need to fear, though—we are only armed with binoculars.
Unfortunately for today’s beaver ancestors, early European explorers favored guns more than spyglasses. When European explorers in the late 1600s didn’t find the spices they hoped for when they were turned around and diverted from traveling to the Orient, they decided to settle on exporting beaver fur instead. Beavers were thick on the ground then, with populations in the millions. English and French fur traders began selling beaver fur hats, which quickly became popular across Europe.
Though beavers appeared on everything from coins to coats of arms, few gave much thought to their conservation. By the mid-1800s, beavers had plummeted from a population of nearly six million to near-extinction. Luckily for the beaver, and future generations of humans, silk hats surpassed beaver pelt hats in European fashions, and the species began to recover. Today the beaver is protected in Canada, and the country’s national emblem and largest living rodent is safe.
Canadians love their beavers so much, they even named a pastry after them. The famous “Beavertails Pastry” is a massive, stretched pastry topped with a nut butter and dusted with sugar, fruit, or candy (Texans, think of our county fair “elephant ears” and you’re close).
Beavers are herbivores, and the mammals weigh between 16 and 35 kg (up to 77 pounds to Americans!). In terms of rodent size, beavers are second only to the capybara. Beavers’ teeth never stop growing, and they chew wood to gnaw them down to size. Because their teeth stick out, they can chew underwater without getting liquid in their mouths.
The semi-aquatic species has unparalleled engineering and building skills. Beavers build incredible huts right in the middle of frigid northern rivers, spreading a thick layer of insulating mud across their domes of sticks to keep warmth in and predators (such as the lynx) out. If a beaver is out and about and feels threatened by a predator, he will slap his giant, paddle-shaped tail against the surface of the water to warn other beavers nearby, then dive down and enter its lodge through the underwater entrance.
Those eager to see beavers may have a hard time tracking them on solid ground, since their long tails obscure tracks on land. If you’re ever in Canada, check out local wildlife tour groups for information. You may just get to witness a beaver building in person!