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Ksik stakii (Blackfeet), North American Beaver
Native Species Global Rank
State Rank Reason below)
Agency Status USFWS
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State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Species is relatively common within suitable habitat and widely distributed across portions of the state
Details on Status Ranking and Review
Beaver ( Castor canadensis) Conservation Status Review
Review Date = 05/03/2018
Score G - 200,000-2,500,000 km squared (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Comment380,531 square Kilometers from Natural Heritage Program range maps Long-term Trend
Score E - Relatively Stable (±25% change)
CommentWhile the species has undergone significant declines due to trapping, populations have recovered across its historic range. Short-term Trend
Score F - Increasing. Increase of >10% in population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences
CommentSpecies continues to actively colonize areas from which it was extirpated Threats
Score H - Unthreatened. Threats if any, when considered in comparison with natural fluctuation and change, are minimal or very localized, not leading to significant loss or degradation of populations or area even over a few decades’ time. (Severity, scope, and/or immediacy of threat considered Insignificant.)
CommentSpecies is harvested/controlled, local populations suffer from outbreaks of tularemia. Species has not recolonized all areas from which it was extirpated, but is expanding in both range and population. Existing populations secure and stable.
Score B - Moderately Vulnerable. Species exhibits moderate age of maturity, frequency of reproduction, and/or fecundity such that populations generally tend to recover from decreases in abundance over a period of several years (on the order of 5-20 years or 2-5 generations); or species has moderate dispersal capability such that extirpated populations generally become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans).
CommentModerately Vulnerable. Species exhibits moderate age of maturity, frequency of reproduction, and/or fecundity such that populations generally tend to recover from decreases in abundance within 5-20 years or 2-5 generations. Species has good dispersal ca Environmental Specificity
Score D - Broad. Generalist. Broad-scale or diverse (general) habitat(s) or abiotic and/or biotic factors are used or required by the species, with all key requirements common in the generalized range of the species in the area of interest. If the preferred food(s) or breeding/nonbreeding microhabitat(s) become unavailable, the species switches to an alternative with no resulting decline in numbers of individuals or number of breeding attempts.
CommentRequires lentic or lotic waterbodies but this requirement aside, the species is found in a wide diversity of ecosystems and shows remarkable flexibly in its life history Raw Conservation Status Score
3.5 + 0 (geographic distribution) + 0.5 (environmental specificity) + 0.25 (short-term trend) + 1 (threats) = 5.25
The largest rodent in North America north of Panama. On land is a large, clumsy, hump-backed animal. In the water, becomes sleek and torpedo-shaped. Propels itself with powerful webbed hind feet. Beavers use their large dorsally flattened, scale-covered tail to maneuver in water. Slapping the tail on water surface is used as a signal of alarm. Split nail on the second hind toe is used for grooming. Incisors are large and continually growing. Fur is rich brown with black to reddish guard hairs. Under-fur is soft and extremely dense with excellent insulating qualities. Both sexes have a pair of anal glands and castor sacs located ventrally. Beavers emit anal gland secretions year round. Total length: 34 to 40 inches. Weight: 30 to 60 pounds. Builds stick and mud dams across streams. Mostly nocturnal. May build large conical houses at the edge of a lake or burrow into the bank for a den along rivers. Beaver life is based on a family unit consisting of a pair of adults, yearlings, and kits. The information in next section is from Hill (1982), Miller (1983), and Novak (1987a), unless otherwise indicated. The beaver is the largest North American rodent; most adults weigh 16 to 23 kg (35 to 50 pounds), rarely 32 to 38 kg (70 to 85 pounds) or more. Kits weigh about 0.5 kg or a little less (1 pound) at birth Hill (1982), when they are about 38 cm (15 inches) long Schwartz and Schwartz (1981). The relationship between beaver age and mass is roughly as follows: less than 0.5 years old, less than 5 kg (11 pounds); 0.5 to 1.5 years old, 6 to 11 kg (13 to 24 pounds); 1.5 to 2.5 years old, 10 to 13 kg (22 to 29 pounds); greater than 2.5 years old, greater than 14 kg (31 pounds). The preceding weight-age data are often accurate, but it must be realized that weight is influenced by various factors other than age. The total length of a beaver varies with age as follows: yearlings are 26 to 34 inches; adults of 2 to 3 years, 35 to 40 inches; older adults, 47+ inches (maximum about 4.5 feet) in the warmer months and generally ends at age 4 to 5 years. Pelage color varies geographically from yellowish-brown to black (this range of color may be found in a single watershed). There is one annual molt. The pelt is prime from late fall to early spring. The sexes are difficult to distinguish externally. Hodgen (1978) provided information on sexing beavers by their behavior in a live trap. See Novak (1987a) for additional references on sexing methods.
River Otter - tail covered with fur. Muskrat - smaller, tail slender. An inexperienced observer could mistake a Muskrat (
Ondatra zibethicus), Round-tailed Muskrat ( Neofiber alleni) or a Nutria ( Myocastor coypus) for a Beaver, but these other rodents do not have a broad flattened tail.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Occupies a wide variety of habitats in North America. Water and associated woody vegetation are the most essential components of beaver habitat. Ideal beaver living sites include ponds, small lakes, meandering streams, and rivers.
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system,
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at:
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Beavers are strict herbivores. Beavers eat a variety of woody and herbaceous species. Willows, mountain alder, and aspen are important foods. Will also consume herbaceous vegetation during summer. Much of the woody vegetation beavers cut is not used for food. Caches woody vegetation near shore for winter food.
Breeds from January through March. Two to four young are born after a 105- to 107-day gestation period. One litter per year is produced. Two-year-olds are eventually driven from or leave the parental home.
Literature Cited Above
Legend: View Online Publication Hill, E.P. 1982. Beaver. Pages 256-281 in J.A. Chapman and G.A. Feldhamer, editors. Wild Mammals of North America: biology, management, and economics. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 1147pp. Hodgdon, H.E. 1978. Social dynamics and behavior within an unexploited beaver (Castor canadensis) population. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 292 p. Miller, J.E. 1983. Beavers. Prevention and control of wildlife damage. Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Novak, M. 1987. Beaver. Pp. 282-312 in: M. Novak, J.A. Baker, M.E. Obbard, and B. Malloch, eds. Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America. Ministry Nat. Res., Ontario. 1150 pp. Schwartz, C.W. and E.R. Schwartz. 1981. The wild mammals of Missouri. Revised edition. University of Missouri Press and Department of Conservation. Columbia and London. 356 pp. Additional References
Legend: View Online Publication Do you know of a citation we're missing? Adams, A.K. 1953. Some psycho-chemical effects of beaver dams upon Michigan trout streams in the Watersmeet area. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Adelman, E.B. 1979. A survey of the nongame mammals in the Upper Rattlesnake Creek drainage of western Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 129 pp. Aldous, M. C. 1955. A tool for beaver dam removal. J. WildI. Manage. 19: 153-154. Aldous, S.E. 1938. Beaver food utilization studies. Journal of Wildlife Management 2: 215-222. Aleksiuk, M. 1968. Scent-mound communication, territoriality, and population regulation in beaver (Castor canadensis Kuhl). Journal of Mammalogy 49(4): 759-762. Aleksiuk, M. 1970. The seasonal food regime of arctic beavers. Ecology 51: 264-270. Aleksiuk, M. and I.M. Cowan. 1969. Aspects of energy expenditure in the beaver (Castor canadensis Kuhl) at the northern limit of its distribution. Canadian Journal of Zoology 47(4): 471-481. Aleksiuk, M. and I.M. Cowan. 1969. The winter metabolic depression in arctic beavers (Castor canadensis Kuhl) with comparisons to California beavers. Canadian Journal of Zoology 47(5): 965-979. Allen, A.W. 1983. Habitat suitability index models: beaver. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FWS/OBS-82/10.30. 20pp. Allen, T.D.H. 2011. Wildlife guards for deer and Black Bear. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 71 p. Allred, M. 1986. Beaver behavior. Happy Camp, California: Naturegraph Publishers, Inc. 110p. Alt, Kurt, 1984, II Game Bird and Fur (Small Game) Survey and Inventory. Statewide Wildlife Survey and Inventory. Region Two Survey and Inventory. W-130-R-15, Job No. 2, July 1, 1983 - June 30, 1984. Alt, Kurt, John E. Firebaugh, Lyn S. Nielsen, and Robert Henderson, 1985, II Game Bird and Fur (Small Game) Survey and Inventory. Statewide Wildlife Survey and Inventory. Region Two Survey and Inventory. W-130-R-16, Job No. 2, July 1, 1984 - June 30, 1985. Alt, Kurt, John E. Firebaugh, Lyn S. Nielsen, and Robert Henderson, 1987, II Game Bird and Fur (Small Game) Survey and Inventory. Statewide Wildlife Survey and Inventory. Region Two Survey and Inventory. W-130-R-18, Job No. 2, July 1, 1986 - June 30, 1987. Alt, Kurt., John E. Firebaugh, Lyn S. Nielsen, and Robert Henderson, 1986, Statewide Wildlife Survey and Inventory. II Game Bird and Fur (Small Game) Survey and Inventory. Region Two Survey and Inventory. W-130-R-17, Job No. 2, July 1, 1985 - June 30, 1986. Anaconda Minerals Company, and Camp, Dresser & McKee. 1981. Anaconda Stillwater Project 6-month environmental baseline report. CDM Project No. 3139. Vol. I Appendix. Jan. 15, 1981. Anonymous. 1946. Trapping and transplanting beaver. Montana Fish and Game Comm. Biennial Report. Anonymous. 1989. Improved drain for beaver ponds. The Habitat Express, U.S. Forest Service, Ogden, Utah. Apple, L.L. 1983. 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