It’s a common misconception that beavers eat entire trees. They eat a variety of foods, including many parts of a tree, including leaves, stems, twigs, buds, and bark.
However, the main wood part they leave alone unless it’s the very soft material right under the bark.
It seems like they eat hard wood since they chew on trees and branches in order to get food and to make their lodges and dams.
Do Beavers Eat Wood?
Beavers chew down small trees and chew off branches, but do not eat hard wood. They will eat the very soft wood right under bark, bark, stems, buds, leaves, and buds. They also like many kinds of plants, vegetables, fruits, and mushrooms. They are strict vegetarians. So, they do eat wood, but only certain types.
Why Beavers Chew Down Trees
Beavers have many reasons for chewing down young trees. Tree branches contain many parts that beavers can eat, although they do not eat the hard main wood.
Branches and slim tree trunks also are used for making lodges and dams. Branches, trunks, rocks, and mud are their construction materials.
Beaver lodges are huge. They need to be to not only hold a beaver family but also be large enough to discourage predators.
Most predators just aren’t strong enough to move all of the branches. Only a very determined bear or mountain lion could rip through a well-constructed beaver lodge.
By the time a predator gets through, the beavers have slipped out of the underwater entrance hole and swum away.
Beaver dams help keep water levels at stable levels. This helps make sure the lodge won’t be damaged by sudden rushes of water.
Without lodges, beavers do not have a secure home and are prone to be killed by predators. Beaver dams also have been proven to benefit many species of animals and fish.
How Beavers Store Food for the Winter
Beavers stay awake through the winter but are much less active. They primarily stay in their lodges but will go outside in the water to get food when needed.
Since their food isn’t available in winter, they spend all the other seasons of the year making a lodge and storing food.
There’s a reason why the expression is “busy as a beaver” since they need to work long hours to make sure there is enough food for the winter.
Beavers chew off branches from trees and drag them underwater under their lodge. They stick the thicker end of the branch into the mud.
The mud keeps the food in place. The cold water keeps the vegetation relatively fresh. During winter, the leaves oftentimes stay green and the stems stay tender.
Beavers move very little during the winter, which reduces their need for food.
But when they are hungry, all they have to do is slip out of the lodge, swim to the bottom, pull out a branch and swim with it back to the lodge. They often eat branches like people eat corn on the cob, holding the branch in their paws.
How Beavers Cut Down Trees
Beavers will not just start chewing on any old tree. They prefer certain species to others.
Their favorites are aspen, popular, and cottonwood. They also like cherry, birch, alder, aspen, willow, and birch. They will only go after oaks or maples if all of their favored trees are gone.
If even the oaks and maples are gone, then they will go for their least favored trees, conifers like pines.
Beavers will not attempt trying to take down a tree that has a trunk more than six inches wide. However, if they have no other choice, beavers will chew down wider trees.
According to the charity River Keepers, beavers have been known to take down trees up to 33 inches wide. Beavers also prefer to travel only 100 yards from their watery home to look for trees to chew down.
Beavers chew down a tree by gnawing chunks in a ring around the trunk. They chew until the trunk rests on a hinge, then gravity takes over and it falls.
They purposefully make sure the tree falls towards the body of water they live in. This makes dragging the tree there easier.
Although beavers are skilled loggers, they do make mistakes. Beavers can be killed by the very trees they cut down.
Beaver Teeth Are Amazing
Beaver’s teeth need to be incredibly strong in order to take down many trees a year. In order to be strong enough, the teeth enamel is high in iron.
The iron makes the beaver’s teeth orange. Other rodents have strong teeth, but that is due to magnesium and not iron.
Beavers have teeth shaped like chisels. This is because the back of the teeth wears away faster because the back lacks enamel.
Otherwise, the teeth would not be able to effectively chop through wood. Their long front buckteeth are the strongest.
Beavers also have very strong lower jaw muscles to help chew through wood.
Beavers are rodents. Like all rodents, beaver teeth grow throughout their lives. With luck, beavers can live ten years.
According to the BBC, beaver teeth grow half a centimeter every month. Chewing on tree bark and twigs helps the beavers’ teeth from growing too long, making them unable to eat eventually.
Frequently Asked Questions about Beavers Eating Wood
What Animals Eat Wood?
Beavers do eat the soft parts of wood found directly under bark, stems, and tender twigs, but leave the rest of the wood alone. Termites eat all parts of trees and anything containing cellulose, including paper, drywall, and mulch. Some catfish eat wood softened and rotten by water.
Do Beavers Eat Fish?
Beavers have somehow gotten the reputation of eating fish. They are strict vegetarians. Otters look similar to beavers and love to eat fish, so that is probably how beavers got the bad reputation of being harmful to fish.
Do They Feed Trees to Beavers in Zoos?
In zoos, beavers get a wide food variety. They get commercial pellets for rodents like rats and a variety of veggies and fruits. They do get thin branches with or without leaves and stems, but they are not given whole trees.
The Least You Need to Know
Beavers do not eat wood in the way termites do. It may seem like they eat trees since they spend a lot of time chewing down young trees and dragging branches and trees to make their lodges and dams.
Beavers eat tree leaves, buds, stems, tender twigs, tree bark, and very soft wood under bark, but not the hard wood.
They also like to eat many other kinds of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, grass, ferns, and any water plant roots soft enough to eat.