Beavers of the Chesapeake Watershed

posted in: Chesapeake Bay News | 0

Increasingly, outdoor enthusiasts are reporting beaver sightings in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The beaver is the largest rodent in North America. It has webbed feet, brown fur and a wide, flat, dark tail. Adult beavers usually weigh around 40 pounds but can reach weights of 75 pounds or more. Beavers live around 20 years in the wild.

Although the stereotype of North American beaver habitat includes streams, dams, and beaver ponds, these large aquatic mammals may behave quite differently in the swamps and creeks of the Chesapeake region.

With the abundance of water and trees, beavers do not necessarily build dams in swamp habitats. In tidal rivers, beavers may move into secluded coves or small tributaries during summer. Some downriver movement has been reported to occur in winter.

A tree girdled by a beaver in a Maryland cypress swamp.

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, beavers consume aquatic plants including pond weeds, water-lilies, and cattails. They also consume the inner bark of deciduous trees. Trees are often completely girdled by feeding beavers, which kills the affected trees.

Beavers are occasionally relocated by wildlife managers when their activities are clash with humans. Both Maryland and Virginia allow harvests of beavers for fur and food. Predators also impact beavers of the region, including foxes, coyotes, and dogs.

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