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Beavers are the largest rodent in North America and have a propensity for building dams. Though they were nearly hunted to extinction for their pelts, beavers can now be found in various regions across the United States. They are occasionally considered beneficial to humans and the environment as the ponds created by their dams develop into ecosystems where flora and fauna thrive. However, the same dams also cause flooding. Additionally, the constant chewing of beavers can lead to loss of valuable fruit, ornamental, and shade trees.
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Growing up to 5 feet in length and weighing in excess of 90 pounds, beavers are much larger than other aquatic rodents found in the United States. They are brown in color and have large heads and broad, flat tails covered in black scales. Strong swimmers and diggers, beavers also possess strong back legs and webbed feet. As is the case with most rodents, their orange front incisors are always growing, which makes it necessary for beavers to regularly chew on bark or similar substances. The large aquatic rodents can close off their nostrils and ears in order to swim underwater for longer periods of time.
Targeting species like maple, beech, alder, and willow, beavers feed on both the bark and cambium, or the soft wood found underneath the bark, of trees. The rodents also feed on aquatic vegetation and enjoy the leaves, roots, and tubers of growing plants. Beavers will actually store food for the winter by shoving trees and shrubs into the mud at the bottom of ponds or streams.
Beavers build dens made of sticks, mud, grass, and moss. These burrows are found either in bodies of water or on banks near water. Beaver dens usually have two or more access points, with at least one located underwater. The rodents can be found throughout North America, though they typically do not live too far north or in the deserts of the Southwest United States.