Besides being the largest rodent in North America, the beaver is very important to the forest and waterways they live in. They can change the entire landscape of their surroundings by building dams, flooding forests, and creating wetlands.
Beavers are among the few animals capable of changing their own environment to meet their needs. Fortunately, the work beavers do also creates more habitat for a lot of plants, animals, insects, and birds. Thankfully, they work hard all year, including winter.
In the following sections, I will share how these hardworking little creatures survive and thrive during the cold winter months.
How Do Beavers Prepare for Winter?
Table of Contents
- 1 How Do Beavers Prepare for Winter?
- 2 Do Beavers Hibernate?
- 3 Do Beavers Migrate to Warmer Places in Winter?
- 4 How Do Beavers Stay Warm in The Winter?
- 5 How Does Grooming Help a Beaver Stay Waterproof?
- 6 How Warm Is It Inside a Beaver Lodge?
- 7 Are Beavers Less Active in Winter Months?
- 8 What Do Beavers Do in The Lodge?
- 9 What Do Beavers Do if The Water Freezes?
- 10 Do Beavers Chew Holes in The Ice?
For beavers, preparation is key to surviving the winter. Beavers spend the fall months collecting bark, branches, and other food sources to build a supply during the winter. They also use the fall months to build and insulate their huts, which they will use to stay warm and safe during winter.
Another important preparation step is to fatten up! Beavers put on fat during the fall to insulate their bodies during the winter. This stored fat also helps them survive if food supplies are running low or if there are young beavers under two years old in the hut.
Adult beavers will often eat less and rely on their stored fat in the winter so young beavers can eat more.
Do Beavers Hibernate?
Beavers do not hibernate. They spend more time in their huts, or homes, during the winter, but they are awake and active. They even venture out when possible to find food and to find materials to maintain their lodge.
Do Beavers Migrate to Warmer Places in Winter?
Beavers do not migrate. Beavers are very territorial. They stay in one location until they have exhausted the resources in that area. In some cases, that could be a few months. In others, it could be years.
If a beaver group leaves their body of water, it’s to search for a location for better resources. It’s not because winter is coming.
How Do Beavers Stay Warm in The Winter?
There are a few ways beavers stay warm in the winter. The primary way is through the use of their lodge. Beavers build lodges over bodies of water. These lodges, commonly known as “beaver dams,” are made of sticks, branches, and mud, which help to insulate the lodge.
The structure then freezes. It’s completely closed off to the outside, except for a ventilation hole at the top and some entrance and exit tunnels out of the lodge. The shelter provides protection from the elements and keeps the beavers warm.
Another important element is the beaver’s body fat. Beavers add fat in the months ahead of winter to not only provide energy but also insulate their bodies. That extra padding helps keep them warm through the winter months!
How Does Grooming Help a Beaver Stay Waterproof?
Beavers enter and exit their lodges through tunnels that go underwater. You may be wondering how they stay warm if they’re constantly swimming through cold water.
The answer lies in their fur and their grooming. Beavers have a “castor gland” on the underside of their abdomen which produces oils, which the beaver then combs through its fur during grooming. That oil keeps the fur waterproof and protects the beaver from cold water as it swims.
How Warm Is It Inside a Beaver Lodge?
Studies have shown that beaver lodges stay around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, even if the outside temperatures drop much further. In fact, the outside temperature can be negative and the temperature inside a beaver lodge will often stay the same.
How Do Beavers Insulate Their Lodges?
Beavers build their lodges over bodies of water like creeks, rivers, and ponds. The lodges are constructed with sticks and branches, leaving a hole at the top for ventilation.
The beavers then insulate the lodges by packing mud in and around the sticks. When the temperature drops, the mud freezes and becomes a hard shell. That allows air and heat to stay inside the lodge.
Beaver lodges are very similar to igloos in the way they contain heat even in cold climates!
Are Beavers Less Active in Winter Months?
Beavers may be less active than normal in the winter months, but they are still active. Beavers have a need to chew wood. That means they have to leave their lodges at some point to chew trees and branches. They may also need to collect food or make repairs to their lodge.
They use tunnels in the bottom of their lodges to get in and out. These tunnels often lead to the body of water below the lodge so the beaver can swim to shore.
What Do Beavers Do in The Lodge?
Beavers spend more time in their lodge in the winter than they do in the other months. So what do they do to pass all that time?
Two things, mainly: they eat and mate. The winter is prime mating season so the babies are born in the spring and have plenty of time to grow before the next winter arrives.
What Do Beavers Do if The Water Freezes?
It’s common for water to freeze below the beaver lodge, especially in colder parts of North America. The beavers instinctively know this can happen, which is why they plan ahead!
They accumulate plenty of food so they won’t need to leave the lodge while the ice is frozen. And inside the lodge, they construct a sleeping shelf so they don’t have to sleep directly on the ice. Think of it as a little loft made out of sticks and branches.
Do Beavers Chew Holes in The Ice?
There are anecdotal reports of beavers chewing holes in the ice to maintain their entrance and exit tunnels. They may do this if they need more food, need materials for the lodge, or just want to get out and chew.
Temperatures may drop earlier in the season than expected, and the water could freeze over before the beavers have a chance to accumulate enough food or finish their lodge. In that case, their only option is to chew a hole in the ice and get moving.