Scientific name: Castor fiber
Our largest rodent, the European beaver has a flat tail and webbed feet, and is well-suited to a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Once hunted to extinction in the UK, recent reintroductions have been very successful.
Average lifespan: 10-15 years
Beavers are being re-introduced into different parts of Great Britain after an absence of about 400 years.
When to seeActive January to December but easiest to see in daylight between May and September.
AboutThe European beaver is a ‘keystone species’, with an amazing ability to alter its surroundings. Where it doesn’t have access to deep water, it can build dams that can transform landscapes. It fells and coppices riverside trees (especially willow) for food and for building dams and lodges. In late spring and summer, it eats mainly aquatic plants, grasses, ferns and shrubs, but at other times, woody species form the major part of its diet. Beavers live in family groups with an average of about five individuals, comprising adults, kits and yearlings. Females produce a single litter of one to six kits per year (average about 3). Beavers are semi-aquatic, mostly active at dawn and dusk, and do not hibernate.
How to identifyAs large as a Labrador dog, but with shorter legs, the European beaver is robust and heavily built. Two distinctive features are a broad, flat tail, covered with scales, and webbed feet. It has small eyes and ears, and light brown fur.
In our area
Beavers have been extinct in Shropshire for over 400 years, but there are hopes that they could once again live here as part of a trial release programme within the next decade.