Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Castor canadensis
(beaver)

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Datasheet

Castor canadensis (beaver)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 14 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Castor canadensis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • beaver
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Mammalia
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Castor canadensis (beaver) is native to North America, and has been introduced to Tierra del Fuego in southern South America, Finland, France, Poland and Russia in recent times. In its introduced range, the dammi...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult, in a rocky creek. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible.
TitleAdult
CaptionCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult, in a rocky creek. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible.
Copyright©Rodney Campbell-2011 - CC BY 2.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult, in a rocky creek. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible.
AdultCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult, in a rocky creek. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible.©Rodney Campbell-2011 - CC BY 2.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver);  yearling, grooming. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible. Alhambra Creek, Martinez, California, USA. June, 2009.
TitleYearling
CaptionCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); yearling, grooming. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible. Alhambra Creek, Martinez, California, USA. June, 2009.
Copyright©Cheryl Reynolds-2009 - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver);  yearling, grooming. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible. Alhambra Creek, Martinez, California, USA. June, 2009.
YearlingCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); yearling, grooming. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible. Alhambra Creek, Martinez, California, USA. June, 2009.©Cheryl Reynolds-2009 - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); close view of an adult amongst riparian vegetation. Carburn Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. July, 2005
TitleAdult
CaptionCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); close view of an adult amongst riparian vegetation. Carburn Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. July, 2005
Copyright©Chuck Szmurlo - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); close view of an adult amongst riparian vegetation. Carburn Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. July, 2005
AdultCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); close view of an adult amongst riparian vegetation. Carburn Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. July, 2005©Chuck Szmurlo - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult swimming in the South Saskatchewan River. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. August, 2009.
TitleAdult
CaptionCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult swimming in the South Saskatchewan River. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. August, 2009.
Copyright©SriMesh/wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult swimming in the South Saskatchewan River. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. August, 2009.
AdultCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult swimming in the South Saskatchewan River. The laterally flattened tail, or paddle, is clearly visible. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. August, 2009.©SriMesh/wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult gnawing tree in winter. Gatineau Park, Quebec, Canada.
TitleAdult
CaptionCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult gnawing tree in winter. Gatineau Park, Quebec, Canada.
Copyright©D. Gordon E. Robertson - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult gnawing tree in winter. Gatineau Park, Quebec, Canada.
AdultCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); adult gnawing tree in winter. Gatineau Park, Quebec, Canada.©D. Gordon E. Robertson - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver);  freshly felled 20cm diameter tree. Petrie Island Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. November, 2010.
TitleFreshly felled tree
CaptionCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); freshly felled 20cm diameter tree. Petrie Island Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. November, 2010.
Copyright©D. Gordon E. Robertson - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver);  freshly felled 20cm diameter tree. Petrie Island Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. November, 2010.
Freshly felled treeCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); freshly felled 20cm diameter tree. Petrie Island Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. November, 2010.©D. Gordon E. Robertson - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver);  damage to the forest on the north shore of Robalo Lake, Navarino Island, Chile. January, 2005.
TitleBeaver damage
CaptionCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); damage to the forest on the north shore of Robalo Lake, Navarino Island, Chile. January, 2005.
Copyright©James Cadwell - CC BY-SA 3.0
Castor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver);  damage to the forest on the north shore of Robalo Lake, Navarino Island, Chile. January, 2005.
Beaver damageCastor canadensis (beaver, north American beaver); damage to the forest on the north shore of Robalo Lake, Navarino Island, Chile. January, 2005.©James Cadwell - CC BY-SA 3.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Castor canadensis (Kuhl 1820)

Preferred Common Name

  • beaver

International Common Names

  • English: American beaver; Canadian beaver; North American beaver
  • Spanish: castor americano

Summary of Invasiveness

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Castor canadensis (beaver) is native to North America, and has been introduced to Tierra del Fuego in southern South America, Finland, France, Poland and Russia in recent times. In its introduced range, the damming activity of the beaver can cause flooding which can damage forests. They also have the ability to quickly cut down large numbers of trees. In Finland, they compete with native beaver populations. In their native range, they cause flooding on major highways by plugging highway culverts.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Mammalia
  •                     Order: Rodentia
  •                         Family: Castoridae
  •                             Genus: Castor
  •                                 Species: Castor canadensis

Description

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Castor canadensis (beaver) is a large hervbivorous rodent typically found near water. Adults may be up to 1200mm long and weigh between 18-47kg. Colour ranges from yellowish-brown to black with reddish-brown most common. Guard hairs are long and coarse and the under fur is dense and lead grey in colour. The tail is broad, scaly and dorsoventrally flattened. It is black in young animals but becomes lighter with age. Adaptations for aquatic life include nictitating membranes on the eyes, valvular ears and nose, lips closing behind incisors and webbed hind feet (Jenkins and Busher, 1979; Nummi, 2006).

Distribution

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Native range: North America from northern Mexico to northern Canada.
Known introduced range: Finland, France, Poland, Russia, Argentine and Chilean Tierra del Fuego

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

North America

CanadaPresentNativeISSG, 2011
MexicoPresentNativeISSG, 2011
USAPresentNativeISSG, 2011

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced1946 Invasive ISSG, 2011
ChilePresentIntroduced1950s Invasive ISSG, 2011

Europe

AustriaUnconfirmed recordIntroduced1976ISSG, 2011
FinlandPresentIntroduced1937 Invasive ISSG, 2011
FrancePresentIntroduced1975ISSG, 2011
GermanyUnconfirmed recordIntroduced1990sISSG, 2011
PolandPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Eastern SiberiaUnconfirmed recordIntroduced1975-1979ISSG, 2011
-Northern RussiaPresentIntroduced1940sISSG, 2011
-Russian Far EastUnconfirmed recordIntroduced1975-1979ISSG, 2011

Habitat

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Castor canadensis (beavers) are always found close to water and they require forest to provide food and building material (Nummi, 2006). Beavers have a unique ability to cut trees and this allows them to build mud and wood lodges in which they live, nest and store food. Lodges may be completely surrounded by water or built on the banks of ponds, lakes or streams.They are also able to build watertight dams which create ponds behind them where the beavers are then able to build lodges (Jenkins and Busher, 1979). This behaviour alters large areas of habitat and is the reason why beavers are termed “ecosystem engineers” (Nummi, 2006).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Multiple
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cold lands / tundra Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Freshwater
 
Lakes Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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Nutrition
Castor canadensis (beavers) are "choosy generalist" herbivores. They eat leaves, twigs and bark of most species of woody plants growing near water and also herbaceous plants, particularly aquatics. Whilst they have a wide ranging diet they show a large preference for certain plant species such as aspen (Populus spp.) and willow (Sailx spp.). Roots and rhizomes of water lilies are a particularly important source of winter food (Jenkins and Busher, 1979). 
 
Reproduction
Castor canadensis are monogamous. They usually become sexually mature during their second winter at the age of 1.5 years, although it can be delayed until 2.5 years or later (Nummi, 2006). Beavers mate once a year during winter. Gestation lasts about 105 days and the sole litter is born in spring. Litter size is usually between three and four, but can vary from one to nine (Jenkins and Busher 1979; Hill 1982 in Nummi, 2006). Kits weigh about 500g at birth.
 
Lifecycle stages
The offspring are born fully furred and eyes wide open. They can swim within 24 hours and after several days they are also able to dive out of the lodge without any accompaniment. They leave the dam at two years of age (Anderson, 2002).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Introduction pathways to new locations
Landscape/fauna "improvement":Castor canadensis (beaver) was introduced to southern South American during an Argentine government program to establish furbearers in Tierra del Fuego.
Natural dispersal:Castor canadensis (beavers) have colonized adjacent islands dispersing themselves only by their own means.
Other:Castor canadensis (beaver) was introduced to Finland as part of a programme to reintroduce the European beaver (C. fiber). (Nummi, 2006). They were introduced to Poland and farmed (Nummi, 2006)

Local dispersal methods
Escape from confinement:Castor canadensis (beavers) have escaped from fur farms etc.

Pathway Causes

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Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Environment (generally) Negative
Forestry production Negative

Impact

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General Impacts

Compiled by IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
 
Castor canadensis (beavers) are known as "ecosystem engineers" for their ability to alter the physical and chemical nature of water bodies and their adjacent terrestrial systems in both their native and introduced range (Nummi, 2006). Two recent studies have investigated the impacts of beavers on ecosystems in their introduced range in southern South America. Beavers have been found to cause significant reduction in forest cover up to 30m from water effectively removing riparian forest. In their introduced range of South America Beavers modify the original ecosystem from closed Nothofagus forest to a grass- and sedge-dominated meadow. Nothofagus forest and seedlings are suppressed by beavers but herbaceous plants have been shown to increase in number and diversity. Unfortunately most of the increase in herbaceous plant diversity is due to invasion of the areas by non-native species (Anderson et al. 2006). Deforestation caused by C. canadensis also has the immediate effect of increased erosion due to exposed slopes (Lizzaralde et al, 2004). Forests may not completely regenerate in meadows for more than 20 years after removal of beavers due to flooding and sediments completely covering the forest floor which impedes seedling germination and establishment (Martinez Pastur et al, 2006). Anderson and Rosemand (2006) investigated the effect of beavers on the aquatic ecosystem and found that ponds created by beavers had increased productivity but at the expense of significantly reduced macroinvertebrate diversity. Via physical, chemical and geomorphological alterations, beavers modify the structure and function of entire biotic communities and ecosystems. Lizarralde et al (2004) found that beaver colonized sites in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, Argentina had submerged vegetation and algae indicative of high nitrogen concentrations. Wood debris from fallen trees causes an accumulation of organic material that modifies the biochemical composition of waters, sediments, soils and adjacent riparian areas. These alterations make beaver-altered sites more suitable for introduced fish species (Salmo trusttafario, Salvelinus fontinalis and Onchorrychus mybis) and sustained invertebrate communities typidcal of slow-water habitats (Lizzaralde et al, 2004). Beavers dam the river in which their lodge occurs, and sometimes the dam breaks causing extensive flooding. Dams act as barriers to migration in the stream and also form areas of impounded water behind them, increasing water temperature (Alexander, 1998). Beavers are also known for their ability to rapidly clear a forested area, and also cause flooding to roads by plugging highway culverts (Jensen et al. 2001).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Increases vulnerability to invasions
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Negatively impacts forestry
  • Transportation disruption
Impact mechanisms
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Interaction with other invasive species

Uses

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Castor canadensis (beavers) are trapped and used primarily for their pelt (Langan, 1991). Beavers are being reintroduced to areas where they have been made extinct to improve wetland ecosystems.

Uses List

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Materials

  • Skins/leather/fur

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Castor fiber, the European Beaver, is smaller than Castor canadensis, the American Beaver. The European beaver weighs around 25kg, while the American Beaver weighs around 30-40kg (Streubel, 2000). C. fiber has a coat that varies from a glossy brown to a yellowish brown while C. canadensis has a reddish to blackish brown coat. The two species can also be identified from the secretions of their anal glands with which the animals scent mark the borders of their territories (Rosell and Sun 1999 in Nummi, 2006). C. canadensis out competed C. fiber in Finland because it uses resources better, has a greater number of offspring, and builds better dams (Nummi, 2000).

 

Prevention and Control

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Management Information

Compiled by IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
 
Most Castor canadensis (beaver) management is through various forms of trapping for pelts. Demand for pelts has decreased so now there is little incentive for trappers to hunt beavers. Beaver colonies have been moved to other areas but in most cases other beavers move into the area and replace the beavers that were removed. Similar problems occur with trapping – removing the resident population simply allows other beavers to replace them. Dams in Canada have been blown up but it is a costly process and frequently new dams are created in the same place. Jensen et al (2001) suggest installing oversized culverts as a way of discouraging beaver plugging activity. McKinstry and Anderson (1998) state that Hancock and Bailey traps are typically used for live trapping beavers, but are bulky and expensive, and suggest steel cable snares as an alternative.

Bibliography

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Alexander, M.D. 1998. Effects of beaver (Castor canadensis) impoundments on stream temperature and fish community species composition and growth in selected tributaries of Miramichi River, New Brunswick. Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 0 (2227): 1-44.

Anderson, C.B. 2004. Exotic vertebrate fauna in Cape Horn County, Chile. Report – BIOKONCHIL Biodiversity Assessment Project. UFZ-Halle Environmental Research Center. Leipzig, Germany. 37 pp.

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Coronato, A., Escobar, J., Mallea, C., Roig, C.,and Lizarralde, M. 2003. Geomorphological characteristics of mountain watershed rivers colonized by Castor canadensis in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Ecologia Austral. 13 (1): 15-26.

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Lizarralde, M.S. 1993. Current status of the introduced beaver (Castor canadensis) population in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Ambio. 22: 351-358.

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Lizarralde, M.S., Bailliet, G., Poljak, S., Fasanella, M. & Giulivi, C. 2008. Assessing genetic variation and population structure of invasive North American beaver (Castor canadensis Kuhl, 1820) in Tierra Del Fuego (Argentina). Biological Invasions 10: 673-683.

Lizarralde, M.S., Deferrari, G., Alvarez, S.E. and Escobar, J. 1996. Effects of beaver (Castor canadensis) on the nutrient dynamics of the Southern Beech forest of Tierra del Fuego. Ecologia Austral. 6: 101-105.

Lizarralde, M.S., Deferrari, G., Escobar, J. and Álvarez, S. 1996. Estado de la población de Castor canadensis introducida en Tierra del Fuego y su estudio cromosómico. PID-BID 50/92, Dirección General de Recursos Naturales de la Provincia de Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur, Ushuaia, Argentina.

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Martinez Pastur, G., Lencinas, M.V., Escovar, J., Quiroga, P., Malmierca, L. & Lizarralde, M. 2006. Understorey succession in Nothofagus forests in Tierra del Fuego (Argentina) affected by Castor canadensis. Applied Vegetation Science 9: 143-154.

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Rosell, Frank, Boszer, Orsolya, Collen, Peter & Parker, Howard., 2005. Ecological impact of beavers Castor fiber and Castor canadensis and their ability to modify ecosystems. Mammal Review 35 (3-4), 248-276.

Rozzi, R. and Massardo, F. 2002. Antecedentes de Biodiversidad y Sitios Prioritarios en la Comuna Cabo de Hornos: Recopilación de Información sobre los Ecosistemas Subantárticos en Apoyo a la Estrategia Nacional y Plan de Acción para la Biodiversidad. Informe Técnico. Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente XII Región, Punta Arenas, Chile.

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Rozzi, R., Massardo, F., Berghoefer, A., Anderson, C., Berghoefer, U. and Araya, P. 2004. Documento Base para la Incorporación del Territorio Insular del Cabo de Hornos a la Red Mundial de Reservas de Biosfera. Programa MaB - UNESCO. 173 pp.

Sielfeld, W. and Venegas, C. 1980. Poblamiento e impacto ambiental de Castor canadensis Kuhl, en Isla Navarino, Chile. Anales del Instituto de la Patagonia. 11: 247-257.

Skewes, O., González, F., Rubilar, L. and Quezada, M. 1999. Investigación, aprovechamiento y control castor, islas Tierra del Fuego y Navarino. Instituto Forestal-Universidad de Concepción, Punta Arenas.

Streubel, D. 2000. Castor canadensis (American Beaver). http://imnh.isu.edu/digitalatlas/bio/mammal/Rod/Beaver/beaver.htm

Torres-Mura, J.C. 2004. Fauna del Archipiélago Fuegino y el Cabo de Hornos. Informe – FDI CORFO, Fundación EuroChile. Santiago, Chile.

Contributors

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Principal sources: Christopher Anderson and Brett Maley, Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens GA 30605 and Omora Foundation, Puerto Williams, XII Region, Chile.
Nummi, P. 2006. NOBANIS – Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet – Castor canadensis.
Jenkins, S.H. and Busher, P.E. 1979. Castor canadensis. Mammalian Species
Jenkins and Busher, 1979 and Nummi, 2006

    Compiled by: Viki Aldridge, University of Washington, Tacoma, Supervised by Deborah Rudnick and IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Sunday, December 13, 2009

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