The Beaver is an aquatic species of rodent found in BC throughout the province in lakes, along rivers and streams, and in the brackish, tidal waters along the coast. It is easily recognized by its large size, small ears and eyes, brown coloration, and large flat, broad, scaly tail. The tail is slapped on the water to create an alarm sound when threatened. It has strong teeth, including large, orange incisors. The front feet are clawed and the hind feet are webbed (Nagorsen 2005).
The Beaver is the largest species of rodent in North America and is probably the rodent most familiar to Canadians. It is the Canadian national symbol, and its role in the history of Canada through the fur-trade is well documented.
The presence of beaver in a pond or lake is easily spotted by the presence of beaver lodges, or by felled trees in the area that show the characteristic marks of beaver work.
The Beaver requires a stable water source, such as a lake, pond, or stream and, generally, an abundant source of woody plants. According to Nagorsen (2005), preference is for narrow streams that can be dammed to control water levels: "The water level must be of sufficient depth to avoid freezing solid in winter and to accommodate the Beaver's lodges or burrows, den, and food caches." He also notes that while the Beaver is found throughout BC, it is less successful in coastal forests than in interior wetlands.
Nagorsen (2005) indicates that there are twenty-four subspecies of Beaver in North America, with four found in British Columbia. These are:
1) Castor canadensis belugae (coastal mainland and islands to Dean Inlet)
2) Castor canadensis canadensis (northeastern BC)
3) Castor canadensis leucodontus (southern interior and southwestern coastal mainland to Rivers Inlet, Vancouver Island and adjacent islands)
4) Castor canadensis sagittatus (central interior of BC to Kamloops and Glacier)