Do Beavers Eat Fish? Learn About The Diet By Types

Ritwik Bhuyan
Feb 29, 2024 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Nov 02, 2021
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Beaver sitting in a river close up
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.1 Min

We see beavers in water, but they do not eat fish and are complete vegetarians.

Beavers are beautiful animals and are seen mostly feeding on woody plants like aspen, alder, willow, poplar, and birch. Beavers eat only leaves, roots, greens, tubers, and cambium and sometimes might even choose tule roots, fennel, pondweed, blackberry vines, and various scrub plants apart from cottonwood and willow.

Beavers make ponds or dams of their own, so it is a common notion of people that beavers eat fish that accumulate in beaver dams. However, beavers do not eat fish and are pure vegetarians. Beavers are the world's second-largest rodents and are quite famous all over. Many cartoon characters are based on these animal species and people love them. There has been much speculation saying that beavers eat fish, but this is not true. Beavers just make dams and ponds by taking down trees and eating the bark. You might have noticed salmon populations going down, but this is not due to beavers eating them, but actually the migratory route being cut off by beaver dams. Beavers may build dams in natural areas with some peace, but in case of unavailability of such areas, they may build dams near residential regions too. Beavers will not build dams if the water is deep enough. This helps them stay away from predators. They will live in lodges and bank burrows, however, if the need arises for beaver dams in fear of predators, they will build them and are so careful of the sustainability that if the beavers find the smallest of leaks inside the dam, they will start repairing it immediately.

Beavers do not want a very complicated habitat to make their home and once they start, the habitat can attract larger species of fish including salmon and perch. There is cover in the dams provided by lodges and food caches and this attracts salmon to these areas. This makes fishing easier for fishermen as the fish are readily available. Beavers spend a lot of time in the water, but they never harm fish. In North America, you will often see a North American beaver (Castor canadensis) living in the wild and casually feeding on aspen. In North America, beavers are the largest rodents and the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and North American beaver are the two species found in this region in the wild. The lodges they make in the habitat with wood are complemented by food caches in freshwater nearby. There was also an extinct species of animal found in the region called the Castor californicus.

Food is something a beaver is really keen on and stacks loads of it near the dam it makes. A beaver's life is like an engineer, build and build till you make it. And it is actually brilliant to see how a beaver works. But, due to the natural instincts of beavers to burrow into anything, beavers can do significant damage to ponds that costs a lot to repair. They can sense water movement and clog all places with the flow.

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What is the diet of a beaver?

The second-largest rodents in the order Rodentia are beavers and they are known for their thick fur, tails with patterns, and webbed feet. The diet of beavers consists of woody plants and they are strictly herbivorous.

The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) feeds on aquatic plants, leaves, willow, woody stems, aspen trees, alder, birch, maple, and poplar. The Eurasian beaver's diet consists of birch, aspen trees, willow, twigs, shoots, aquatic plants, leaves, grasses, buds, and roots.

The North American beaver is considered the biggest rodent species found in America and weighs a maximum of up to 71 lb (32 kg). The coat of this beaver has a black to a yellow-brownish hue. Long dark-orange incisors grow throughout the life of a beaver. Their tail is quite popular as their tail is flat and has a scaly long black look. Tails help to provide balance and to swim. As a beaver eats the bark of trees, the unique ability of the beaver to digest cellulose comes to fruition. Microorganisms are present in the cecum to help digest cellulose.

The Eurasian beaver, on the other hand, is a species previously found throughout Europe and hunted for its fur. They weigh similar to the North American beaver and have two fur layers. The outer fur has long red-brown hair while the undercoat is gray in color. The winter diet of this beaver is woody plants, however, in summer, the beaver feeds on food like shoots, leaves, twigs, roots, and buds. The beavers are also known to feed on crops.

Beavers are nocturnal and found feeding on food during the night. During the day, populations of beavers spend time eating and creating dams and other structures. While, during the summer period, beavers eat around 4.4 lb (2 kg) of food, beavers eat around 1.98 lb (0.9 kg) food during the winter season. During the harsh winter months, beavers do not go in search of food and feed on the stacked food kept for these colder times. The burrows and lodges made by a beaver make them inaccessible to predators. Adult beaver species are also known to slap the water with their flat tails to confuse predators of their presence. Potential predators of the beaver species are foxes, great horned owls, otters, and bobcats.

Do beavers eat fish?

Beavers are herbivores and are known to feed on wood, grasses, the inner bark of trees, and tree roots. There are also other dietary needs of a beaver that are discussed above.

It is a common myth that says populations of these animals feed on fish, but is in no way true. Beaver species actually do not have the biological traits to feed on meat and can only feed on the bark of trees and other plants. The teeth, large chiseled incisors, are good to dig deep on the trees but not so much to feed on meat and fish. It however keeps the teeth sharp.

Although beavers do not directly harm fish, there is some concern that the created dams by these animals block the migration of fish like salmon. It was said that dams have decreased the population of salmon in the world. Studies later have shown that the beaver dams actually do not reduce the population and even if it does, the impact is minimal.

Adult beavers create large ponds in the water to live and are very good engineers themselves. Beavers spend most of their lives in search of water and looking out for trees to feed on. Even the webbed feet of the beaver are evolved in such a way to allow for proper swimming ability. Beavers prefer to live in still or slow-moving streams that allow them to get to the lodges and burrow underwater. They create dams only when the water levels are very low. However, if the water is deep enough, beavers won't prepare the dam and will instead live in lodges and bank burrows.

Do all types of beavers eat fish?

The biology of the species says that as the beavers live in water, they must feed on fish. But it is the opposite in reality, as beavers are vegetarians and only feed on wood and other plant materials. So, the myth revolving around if beavers kill fish and eat them is not true.

No species of beavers eat fish. There is no danger to the underwater aquatic animals living in the water bodies from beavers. In fact, they will get more cover from the various items put in the water sites by the beavers. Beavers even gnaw at almost all kinds of trees. A beaver doesn't eat fish and is a herbivore feeding on buds, bark, stems, and twigs from trees.

A beaver is eating fish in the pond

When do beavers eat fish?

Beavers never eat fish, although their choice of habitat says otherwise.

Beavers are total vegetarians and feed only on roots, leaves, tubers, cambium, and greens. They search for this all their lives and never harm fish. There is no season where beavers are known to eat fish. It is just a common myth without any truth behind it.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

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Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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