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Definition: beaver from Philip's Encyclopedia

Large rodent with brown to black fur, webbed hind feet, and a broad tail; it lives in streams and lakes of Europe, North America and Asia. Beavers build 'lodges' of trees and branches above water level and dam streams and rivers with stones, sticks and mud. Length: to 1.2m (4ft); weight: up to 32kg (70lb). Family Castoridae; species Castor fiber.


Summary Article: beaver from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Aquatic rodent with webbed hind feet, a broad flat scaly tail, and thick waterproof fur. It has very large incisor teeth and fells trees to feed on the bark and to use the logs to construct the ‘lodge’, in which the young are reared, food is stored, and much of the winter is spent. There are two species, the Canadian Castor canadensis and the European C. fiber. They grow up to 1.4 m/4.6 ft in length and weigh about 20 kg/44 lb.

Beavers are monogamous and a pair will produce a litter of twins each year. Their territory consists of about 3 km/2 mi of river. Beavers can construct dams on streams, and thus modify the environment considerably; beaver ponds act as traps for minerals and provide fertile living conditions for other species – zooplankton biomass may be 1,000 times greater within a beaver pond than elsewhere. Beavers once ranged across Europe, northern Asia, and North America, but in Europe now only survive where they are protected, and are reduced elsewhere, partly through trapping for their fur.

Beavers became extinct in Britain in c. 1550. It was highly prized for its meat, its fur, and for secretions from its glands which were used for medicinal purposes, and was over-hunted. Victorian naturalists tried and failed to reintroduce it, and a colony released on the Isle of Bute in 1875 grew to 27 before dying out in c. 1890. Beavers are to be reintroduced into Scotland in early 2001. A seven-year pilot project was given the go-ahead in April 2000 by the Scottish Natural Heritage. The first release will comprise 12 animals, and will represent the first native animals to be reintroduced to Britain.

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