The North American Beaver may not be as magnificent as the American Bald Eagle or as charming as the Chinese Giant Panda. Still, one thing is certain: it is very Canadian.
Its ties to Canada are so strong that writer and instructor Frances Backhouse has written an entire book about it. In “Once They Were Hats,” she delves into humanity’s 15,000-year relationship with the beaver and its distinct impact on Canada’s geography and history.
Backhouse will tell you that she is proud to declare the beaver Canada’s national animal. “Not simply some species are as charismatic or alluring as so many national animals,” she explained. “Beavers have done a lot for us and are historically and ecologically connected to the country.”
Here are seven interesting facts about the beaver that will help you understand why it is our national animal.
Beavers are just old fashion Canadians
Beavers labor hard, stay with the same partner their entire lives, and normally only have one family every year.
And they bear little resemblance to the promiscuous, baby-making rodents to which they are sometimes referred. According to Backhouse’s book, the Norway rat begins reproducing around two months after birth and produces litters of six to 22 young three to twelve times a year.
On the other hand, our traditional North American Beaver wants to wait. Although they achieve sexual maturity at one year, most do not mate until they are two or three years old, and they normally have two to four kits.
They had a significant impact on Canada’s development.
Beaver pelts were essential to the Canadian fur trade, with Aboriginal and European hunters supplying trade networks with beaver pelts, mostly used to produce top hats popular in Europe throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
As the beaver became scarce in some areas, the network spread, laying the framework for Canada’s growth.
Even Backhouse was surprised by the persistent demand for beaver pelts long into the twentieth century. Trappers sold a record number of beaver pelts in 1981.
They are magnificent creatures – Canada national animal
Don’t be fooled by their spherical appearance. Beavers have been known to use their incisor teeth and powerful lower jaw muscles to fell trees up to a metre in diameter.
They are also water-resistant. They are superb swimmers due to their big flat tail that acts as a rudder and webbed feat. A protective translucent membrane beneath the water helps them to keep their eyes open while valves in their ears and nose keep water out.
The incisors of the beaver stick out in front of their lips, allowing them to keep their mouth closed when cutting and chewing wood immersed underwater. They also don’t have to hurry when they’re down there. Beavers can submerge for up to 15 minutes.
They are beneficial to the environment.
As a keystone species, Beavers establish wetlands habitats, an ecosystem on which many other species rely.
They also aid in the reduction of floods and droughts. According to a University of Alberta study, removing the beaver from the wetlands is an environmental disturbance. “They may be one of the most effective approaches to reduce wetland loss in times of drought,” lead author Glynnis Hood said of his findings. “While some assume that climate drives everything, the existence of beaver has a huge effect on the availability of open water in an area.” Beavers are assisting in the retention of water in regions that would otherwise be dry.”
Backhouse discovered evidence of beaver damming an entire creek in the early 1900s.
They work “damn” hard – Canada national animal
Backhouse describes them as “monogamous, hardworking homebodies,” and it appears that clean living and hard labor pay off.
The longest dam in the world now is 850 meters wide, but the largest ever recorded was in the late 1700s by mapmaker David Thompson, who came across a barrier a mile long and wide enough for his horses to walk two abreast. “This may appear to be hyperbole to anybody else, but given Thompson’s fame as a surveyor, I trust his appraisal,” Backhouse says in her book.
They require affection – Canada national animal
Senator Nicole Eaton advocated for the polar bear to replace the beaver as our long-serving national symbol in 2011, calling it a “dentally deformed vermin” and a “toothy tyrant.”
Backhouse, who was well into writing her book at the time, defended the beavers in an editorial piece published by The Tyee titled “Stop the Beaver Bashing!” “It appears that Ms. Eaton requires history and biology refresher courses,” she writes in the essay.
Backhouse suggests in her book that the Senator’s attack may have been personal. “Her criticism suggested retaliation, as she also emphasized her continuing battle to protect beavers from ruining the dock at her vacation property,” she wrote.
They were crucial to indigenous peoples.
The beaver was particularly essential to indigenous peoples, who used as much of the animal as possible. Beaver meat was an important winter diet for Native communities, in addition to their fur, because it contained three times the calories of other red meat.
Native Americans also utilized their teeth to make chisels and ornamental necklaces.
While most original populations hunted beavers, Backhouse notes that “there was a common thread of appreciation for the beaver as part of the natural ecology.”
The Native Americans’ usage of the beaver as a totem animal mirrored this regard.
These 3 Canadian Islands Were Voted The Best For Summer Vacations in 2022