Beaver in South Carolina

Beaver Control - What a landowner can do (Adobe PDF - 79 KB)

Beaver Management & Control (Adobe PDF - 569 KB)

Biology

Beaver Ponds

The beaver pond, which has one or more dams and lodges, provides security for the beaver. These ponds are usually found along smaller tributaries or drainages, and each encompasses one-half to several acres. One colony of beavers may maintain several ponds which encompass as many as 20 to 30 acres.

The water in these ponds is impounded by dams which consist of sticks, mud and debris. The dams vary in height from 1 to 3 feet in the lower portion of the state to as much as 8 to 10 feet upstate. Beavers do obstruct pipes which go under roads or railroad beds. In these cases the road or railroad bed functions as the dam. Beaver ponds may be 8 to 10 feet deep, but the average depth ranges from 1 to 3 feet.

Diagram of typical  beaver lodge construction

Lodges or Dens

Beavers typically construct several types of lodges. The bank den or lodge is found along steep banks around the edge of the pond. They are more common in lakes and in areas where steep terrain provides suitable sites. The beavers simply dig several holes which begin in 1 to 4 feet of water and lead to a common chamber 2 to 3 feet in diameter. This chamber or opening lies above the waterline and is usually lined with soft material.

Another type of lodge or den is the typical mud and stick lodge which is illustrated in most books. This lodge is usually built upon a log, stump or small island in the water. It consists of mud, sticks and debris and has several entrance holes under water.

Photo of beaver in stream

Feeding Habits

A common misconception is that beavers feed upon fish. Beavers are true vegetarians and do not eat fish. Their diet consists of soft aquatic plants during the summer months and the bark of woody plants (trees) during the winter months. It is during the colder months that beavers cut the greatest number of trees. The bark is removed from the felled trees and is eaten, leaving the woody portions for possible construction of dams or lodges.

Reproduction

Beavers produce their first young at 2 to 3 years of age. Breeding takes place about December, and the young are born about March. The average litter consists of two to three young, which are born fully furred and with their eyes open. They can swim almost immediately; however, most do not leave the lodge until they are 1 to 2 months of age. Only one litter is produced each year. Once mated, a pair of beavers will usually remain together for life.

Family Units

A typical family or colony of beavers consists of one mature male and one mature female along with as many as two sets of offspring. Young beavers leave the colony at approximately 2 years of age; therefore, a colony could consist of (1) the adults, (2) a set of offspring ranging up to 1 year of age and (3) a set of offspring from 1 to 2 years of age. Although the abundance of cutting might indicate otherwise, a typical colony usually consists of only two to eight beavers.

Impact

Benefits

Photo of beaver dam and pond

Beavers produce excellent habitat for many species of wildlife. Waterfowl, furbearers, fish, reptiles and amphibians all benefit from the beaver’s presence. The wood duck, the only duck which nests in South Carolina in large numbers, is very fond of beaver ponds. These areas are important nesting areas because they provide an abundance of food for the hen and brood.

Anyone whose land has beaver ponds should consider erecting wood duck nesting structures. These boxes can be obtained by writing:

Photo of tree felled by beaver

Wood Ducks
SC Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 167
Columbia, SC 29202

Damage

Although beavers produce suitable habitat for many wildlife species, they can also conflict directly with the economic interests of man. The damage to timber or agricultural crops (such as soybeans and corn) from cutting or flooding can be extensive. In such cases it is often necessary to control the beaver.


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