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Leave It to the Beaver!

Nov 09, 2015

A beaver is well equipped to cut down trees and build lodges and dams. Although beavers are active in all seasons, winter is a good time to observe signs of these able construction workers. Beavers eat tree bark. especially from young trees. They may cut down a large tree simply to feed on the tender bark of its branches. After chewing off the bark, they use the peeled limbs to construct lodges and dams.

When they build dams, beavers change the landscape dramatically, and the changes promote their survival. On land, beavers move slowly and awkwardly. In water, they are agile and adept swimmers, and can make quick retreats from predators that could also overtake them on foot. In water, beavers can also transport food and building supplies easily. As their dam backs up over a wide area, beavers ensure safe and easy access to more and more trees.

In striking ways, beavers are like people. People grow crops, construct highways and develop industries in what were once wooded areas, thus altering the environment to suit them. Beavers change the habitat to suit them. A creek can easily become a pond at the hands of this hardy construction worker.

Beaver Control

  • The Wildlife Code of Missouri classifies the beaver as a furbearer and game mammal that may be taken during the prescribed trapping season.  Read the current regulations and details.
  • The Code also specifies that you may shoot or trap damage-causing beaver out-of-season without a permit. Refer to 3 CSR 10-4.130 Owner May Protect Property; Public Safety of the Code for details and restrictions.
  • It is practically impossible and cost-prohibitive to exclude beavers from ponds, lakes, and impoundments. Protect individual trees next to waterways with a 36-inch-high fence of rigid welded wire with 4-inch or smaller mesh. Leave at least 2 or 3 inches between the fence and tree for growth.
  • Although shooting is impractical, beaver can be shot, where allowed, if the opportunity arises. Exercise caution, because ricocheting bullets are unpredictable and dangerous.
  • Foothold or body-gripping traps and snares are the most effective way to remove damage-causing beaver. Body-gripping traps and snares placed directly over den openings and runways are especially effective. A suitcase-style cage trap is available and sometimes used, but this method is much less reliable. Each of these traps requires special skill and experience, so professional help is advised.

Learn more about beavers with the MDC’s Field Guide.


Beaver on land, chewing log


Jeff Kitchen (left) and fellow trapper Dallas Stamper (right) examine their furs
Fur Trappers
Jeff Kitchen (left) and fellow trapper Dallas Stamper (right) examine their furs in Stamper’s fur shed.


Beaver cut tree
Beaver Cut Tree
A tree that has been cut down by a beaver.

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