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Our guide to beavers

A Eurasian beaver perched by the water and eating
A Eurasian beaver perched by the water | © National Trust Images / Nick Upton

Beavers were once an important part of the natural environment but became extinct on mainland Britain during the 16th century because they were hunted for their fur, meat and scent glands. Beavers can only be found in a handful of places across the country, including at some places in our care where we've released them to help us tackle the challenges brought by climate change. Find out all about these fascinating creatures.

Fascinating facts about beavers

  • Beavers are the second-largest living rodent.
  • They are herbivores, eating aquatic plants, grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs in the summer months and woody plants in the winter.
  • They will often store food underwater so they can access it if the water freezes over in the winter.
  • They can remain underwater for up to 15 minutes.
  • They have protective eyelids to see underwater and can close both their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering.
  • Beaver teeth are orange from the iron content in the food they eat.
A brown beaver with its head in the twigs and foliage of its dam and its large bat-like tail lolling in the water behind. Green summer leaves and plants surround the water.
A beaver building a dam at Holnicote Estate, Somerset | © National Trust Images/Nick Upton

All about dams

Beavers build dams to create deep pools of water, which offer shelter from predators and allow them to access and store food. The dams, ponds and channels they create have the added advantage of preventing flooding by slowing, storing and filtering water as it flows downstream.

Beavers are helping to make areas of river more resilient to climate change and the extremes of weather it will bring. The dams they create hold water in dry periods, help to lessen flash-flooding downstream, reduce erosion and improve water quality.

The wetland habitats they create attract a diverse variety of wildlife, including bats, dragonflies, kingfishers, owls, moorhens and woodpeckers.

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