North American Beaver: Meet Our Animals








Kingdom:  Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Rodentia

Family: Castoridae

Genus: Castor

Species: canadensis

Height: Head and body, 23 to 39 in (60 to 100 cm); tail, 7.75 to 12 in (20 to 30.5 cm)

Weight: 60 lbs (27 kg)

Lifespan: Up to 24 years


  • Beavers are primarily aquatic animals, and the largest rodents in North America. They have a waterproof coat and use their webbed rear feet like swimming fins,and their paddle-shaped tails like rudders.  They can remain underwater for up
    to 15 minutes without surfacing.
  • Beavers eat bark and cambium (the softer tissue under the bark of trees). They also eat water vegetation, as well as
    buds, and roots. Cellulose, which usually can not be digested by mammals, is a major component of their diet.
    Special microorganisms allow them to digest this material.
  • Beavers create habitats for themselves and other animals by building dams. Gnawing trees with their strong teeth and powerful jaws, they create massive log, branch, and mud structures to block streams and turn fields and forests into the large ponds that beavers love.
  • Domelike beaver homes, called lodges, are constructed of branches and mud. They are often strategically located in the middle of ponds and can only be reached by
    underwater entrances.



Currently at ZooMontana:

  • Huck:  Female, Born May 2010
  • Finn:  Male, Born May 2011


Huck and Finn are both great examples of some of the positive things that zoos do. Huck and Finn both started their lives outside of ZooMontana but have now resided here for a few years.

Huck came to ZooMontana in 2010 as a young female. Huck was born in the wild but both of her parents were killed in an unfortunate accident that left her homeless. She was rescued by the state but could not be returned to the wild as she would not have learned the survival skills from her parents that is required for a beaver to live in the wild. ZooMontana happily accepted her and she has been here ever since.

Finn also came to us as a young beaver in 2011 but his situation was a bit different. Finn was being kept as an illegal pet until the state intervened. Finn was then brought to ZooMontana as he would also not be able to survive in the wild. Finn is a perfect example of why wild animals should not be kept as pets.

Huck and Finn live together year round in our beaver exhibit and beaver holding building.  During the summer they spend the days running around their exhibits, swimming in their pool and eating their food. Their food is made up of Rodent Block (a special zoo food, aka boring food) as well as apples, carrots, yams and jicamas. They also get a steady supply of fresh browse from the trees on ZooMontana grounds.

When fall arrives and temperatures drop, you will see the beavers digging holes in their exhibits. The main reason for this is that they are trying to build a den to stay in throughout the winter. Once we see this behavior we bring the beavers into their indoor area and keep them there throughout the winter. If we didn’t bring them in at this time they would dig a massive cave in their exhibit (we know this because we have unfortunately seen it, naughty beavers). Their indoor area has a pond and bed and lots of branches for them to build forts and dams with. Huck and Finn are the only animals at ZooMontana that spend the entire winter off exhibit (in other words, they are the prima donnas of the zoo).

Huck and Finn don’t mind keepers working around them. Finn is much more accepting of attention and enjoys training sessions with Keeper Kim (he’s basically a suck up). Huck isn’t mean, but she does enjoy having her space (not a suck up). When looking at them Huck is the one that appears to be much larger than Finn. Even though Huck is larger, she only weighs a pound more than Finn (she does not carry her weight well at all). Huck and Finn are both a little over 50 lbs. and this makes them the second largest rodent in the world (the capybara has them beat in size. But we still love Huck and Finn even though they come in second in rodent size).




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