What Does a Beaver Eat?

By Brenton Shields
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A beaver is a large, semi-aquatic rodent that is widespread throughout North America and much of Europe. These furry animals are often seen near rivers or streams and are well known for their famous wooden dams. The diet of beavers is very simple and consists primarily of tree bark and various aquatic vegetation.

Wood

The primary diet of many beavers consists of wood. They generally eat trees that are around 2 to 6 inches in diameter. They feast on aspen, birch, alder, willow and mountain maple. Beavers typically prefer the juicy, green inner layer of wood bark and will use whatever's left to construct their dams.

Other Vegetation

Beavers do not subsist wholly on wood. They also eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and other plants. North American beavers eat water lilies in the wild. They may also consume apples, algae, roots and various leaves. In zoos, they're fed carrots, apples, broccoli and rat chow, which is usually composed of various grains infused with vitamins and minerals.

Teeth

Beavers have two prominent incisors that are perfectly engineered for chewing through tough wood. They grow constantly and can grow at a rate of up to 4 feet per year. Beavers must chew wood to trim their teeth or risk them growing up through their mouths, resulting in a potentially fatal condition in rodents called malocclusion.

Dams as Pantries

Beaver dams are constructed from bits of wood left over from the animal's meal. They store wood near these large constructions for the winter months, when trees do not grow as rapidly or at all. The dams, which serve as the beaver colony's home, raise the water level around it, creating a protective moat while also a deeper area for winter food storage.