The Potential Dangers of American Beaver Encounters (should You Be Afraid?)

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Published on March 2, 2022
Last Updated on October 11, 2023

Like most wild animals, the beaver is not considered dangerous as long as it is being left alone. The buck teeth, flat tail, and chubby body of the beaver give off a sweet and cuddly vibe, but it most certainly is not.  

Beavers can absolutely pose a risk to humans and other animals whom they deem predators if backed into a corner. They have razor-sharp teeth, a very strong tail, and quite a bad temper if they feel threatened. 

Continue reading on to learn more about the beaver, where you can find them, and what to do if you encounter a beaver in the wild.  

Can Beavers Be Aggressive? 

Yes, beavers can be extremely aggressive if they feel threatened or are backed into a corner. Beavers typically keep to themselves, but they will defend their territory from encroaching humans or animals.

You should note, however, that most beavers will steer clear of humans or other perceived threats.

Beavers can also be aggressive in the water as well. Swimming too close to a beaver’s dam or lodge could seem like a perceived attack from the beaver, and they will defend their territory by any means necessary.  

Do Beavers Attack Pets or People?

There have been several news reports of beavers attacking both humans and pets.

Most of these instances have occurred when humans have ventured too close to a beaver. For example, a man in Belarus recently was fatally attacked by a beaver when he bent down to photograph the animal.

An angry looking beaver with its mouth open while sitting on its tail at the water's edge.
Mid-growl? Showing teeth? No, this guy is just yawning, but beavers can be dangerous!

Do Beavers Pull Dogs Underwater To Drown Them? 

You may think that a medium rodent is not a good match against a fully grown dog, but beavers can and will pull dogs underwater during an attack in an attempt to drown them. Beavers have quite a strong and muscular build and in the water, they are even more agile.

Beavers can pull a dog, even a large one, into the water in an instant if the beavers feel threatened. It is important to keep your pets leashed if you are in a potential beaver habitat.  

Have Beavers Attacked Humans? 

There have been several confirmed cases of humans being attacked by beavers. In most instances, it was the humans that found themselves too close to a beaver’s lodge or dam and the beaver, in turn, perceived the human as a predator or other threat. 

Beavers will use their very sharp teeth and viciously strong tail and claws to inflict as much damage as possible on their intended target. They have been known to even attack boats that have gotten too close to their habitat.  

While not common, there have also been a few instances of humans succumbing to the wounds they received when they were attacked by a beaver.

Recently a man in Belarus, where there is a large beaver population, unknowingly got too close to a beaver lodge and was attacked, resulting in a fatality. 

How Do Beavers Attack? 

Beavers tend to emit a hissing and growling sound as a warning to any potential threat of an impending attack if they are on land. In the water, the beaver will slap its heavy tail against the water in an effort to scare off any perceived predators.  

On land, a beaver will attack by charging at its target in an attempt to get them on the ground. This is especially true when it comes to larger, taller humans. With beavers weighing up to 80 pounds, this method proves to be quite effective. Beavers will claw and bite indiscriminately to injure their opponent or the intruder.  

In the water, a beaver can hold its breath underwater for up to 15 minutes. Swimming near a beaver dam or lodge could result in a beaver attack in the water. Beavers will go underwater to attack, swimming upward at their target and sinking in their teeth in their prey, and will not let go.

Do Beavers Have Sharp Teeth? 

Beavers have teeth that can grow up to an inch in length and never stop growing throughout their lives. Because beavers chew on wood and other hard material all the time, their teeth are continuously being sharpened.

Beavers have razor-sharp teeth that are built to cut down trees so biting through the flesh of humans or animals is an easy process for a beaver. 

How Strong Is A Beaver’s Bite? 

Beavers spend most of their lives gnawing through large trees to cut them down. Because of this, beavers have an incredibly strong bite force compared to their body mass.

It has been estimated through scientific research that beavers have a bite force of 180 pounds per square inch. To put this into perspective, humans have only an 88-pound bite force per square inch.  

Beavers and Rabies 

While most people know to steer clear of beavers and their habitats, there are some reports of rabid beavers attacking humans and other animals. Beavers are nocturnal animals, which means they sleep during the day and are awake at night.  

Seeing a beaver up and extremely active during the day is a sign that the rodent could be infected with rabies. If you witness a beaver that is very active in the daytime, you should do your best to put as much distance between you and the rodent as possible and call your nearest wildlife help center.  

Rabid beavers pose an even greater risk to humans and animals because of the high transmission risk from the infected rodent and the low survival rate once a person or animal has been infected with the disease.  

Can You Get Sick From A Beaver Bite? 

If you have been bitten by a beaver, you should seek medical help immediately. Beavers have been known to carry many diseases with the deadliest being rabies. Rabies in humans can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Beavers also carry several different parasites and tularemia, which is a bacterial infection that causes gaping wounds and ulcers at the injury site. If left untreated, both the tularemia and the parasites that the beaver carries can make you sick. 

Do Beavers Have Venom? 

Beavers are not venomous or poisonous species, unlike the Australian platypus (Which looks like a beaver but is completely unrelated).

However, beavers do not need venom to incapacitate their prey. Instead of venom, beavers are equipped with an incredibly strong bite force, and claws that can grow up to several inches long. All of these benefits ensure that a beaver can defend itself from any would-be predators. 

While beavers do not have any venom, they do carry many diseases and parasites. A bite from a beaver, if left untreated, can cause serious health complications. These could range from ulcers, inflammation, bacterial infections, or parasitical infections. 

Do Beavers Back Off If You Give It Space? 

Because beavers only attack if they feel threatened, or infected with rabies, most of the time if you stumble upon a beaver dam or lodge you can back away safely. Beavers are not hyper-aggressive for no reason.

If you come in contact with a beaver, backing away slowly while facing the beaver is an effective way to extract yourself from the potentially dangerous situation easily.  

This is not always the case, however. There have been numerous reports of beavers attacking unsuspecting victims and continuing to charge and attack even while they were backing away. This is especially true for attacks in the water, where the beaver will have the upper hand in the attack. 

Might Beavers Run After You? 

Yes. If you find yourself near an angry beaver it is possible that the beaver will chase after you.

This is especially true for mommy beavers who have their young nearby. Most beavers, however, will not chase after you. The exception to this is encountered with rabid beavers. Rabid beavers will chase after you and most likely be so consumed by the disease that they are physically unable to stop running after you.

Consider the Beaver Territory 

Because the beaver tends to stay by rivers, streams, and ponds, humans usually do not interact with them. When humans get too close to a beaver’s home, beavers can become incredibly territorial and aggressive.  

While they are just protecting their home, this can pose a risk to unassuming humans. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings in the wild. You do not want to unknowingly get too close to a beaver’s home.  

Beavers have been known to go to any lengths in order to defend their territory from both humans and animals alike. This includes tail slapping, biting, and clawing their targets. 

Signs a Beaver is Close 

Out in the wild, it can be difficult to determine where beaver dams and lodges are. Most of the time, beavers build their homes to look like the surrounding area. This is purposeful as it creates more of a hiding place from any would-be predators. 

Because beavers sleep during the day, it can be difficult to know if a beaver has built a dam or lodge near you. There are a few signs, however, that can inform you if a beaver is close by or not. If you know what you are looking for, you can even learn to distinguish a new dam or lodge from an old or abandoned one.

You will want to look for cuttings, teeth marks, and recently felled trees for signs of beaver activity. If you live close to a water source, you should be able to spot an exit point if the beaver has built a dam or lodge. Signs of beaver activity can commonly be seen during the winter and autumn months when the brush is not obstructing your view. 

What Does It Mean When A Beaver Slaps The Water With Its Tail? 

If you hear a slapping sound in the water you may want to pay close attention to where the sound is coming from.

When a beaver slaps its tail on the water it is the first sign that you are too close to an agitated beaver. The tail slapping is a warning sign of a potential beaver attack. Once you hear the slapping sound you quickly find where the beaver is. Sometimes there are only a few seconds between a tail-slapping beaver and safety.  


  • Tommy

    Hi, I'm Tommy! I'm the founder of I am an animal enthusiast and self-proclaimed wildlife expert as well as a dog trainer and breeder of the breed Löwchen. Since I was a kid, I’ve been wildly fascinated by animals, both from growing up in a rural area where there were always animals around, but especially from seeing them in the wild.

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