• dogwood across creek

    Prince William Forest

    Park Virginia

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  • NO FIREWORKS

    Reminder to park visitors. Fireworks are prohibited at Prince William Forest Park.

  • Oak Ridge Campground Site A29 closure

    Oak Ridge Campground site A29 will be closed until safety concerns have been mitigated. Please do not use that site until it has been reopened.

  • Warm Wet Spring = More Ticks

    Please check yourself and your pets for ticks continually during and after your visit. Ticks are less prevelent if you stay on trail or in mowed areas. Wearing light colored clothing helps you spot them before the attach.

  • Firewood

    Outside firewood is prohibited in Prince William Forest Park, unless it is certified USDA 'bug free' firewood. Dead and downed wood may be collected from designated areas for use while in the park. Help us protect the forest from invasive species!

  • Visitor Center Remodel 2014

    Over the next several months there will be new changes coming to the Visitor Center. Presently we are remodeling the bookstore area to give it more of a country theme. Next the exibit area will get all new exhibits. Thank you for your patience and support

Beaver

Beaver by the creek

Beaver by the creek

NPS

The beaver is a lumberjack, wildlife conservationist, and architect. They are the largest rodent in North America and are easily identified by their flat, black, scaly tail which acts like a rudder when swimming. Beavers also use their tail as a warning system by slapping it on the water to alert other beavers of potential danger. The beaver is designed to live in and around water and they can hold their breath for 15 minutes.

 
 

Like all rodents, they have continuously growing incisors, which need to be trimmed by gnawing on wood. They are herbivores, eating twigs, leaves, tree bark and water plants. Beavers topple trees in order to construct dams which raises the water level. In this flooded area they build their domelike lodge made of sticks, grasses and mud. The entrances to the lodge are underwater. A good indicator that beavers are living nearby is the prevalence of pointed tree stumps.

 
Beaver eating a twig

Beaver eating a twig

NPS

Beaver teeth have a hard orange enamel on the front and a softer enamel on the back, which wears away faster. This creates a chisel-like point to make gnawing through wood extremely efficient. A beaver can gnaw through a five-inch diameter tree in five minutes. They prefer American Beech, willows, hickories, maples, aspens, and birches.

 

Beavers have valves in their ears, nose, and back of their throat to prevent water from seeping into those areas. Their hind feet are webbed and they can swim about 5 mph. Another aquatic adaptation beavers have developed is a nictitating membrane which is a translucent eyelid. It acts like underwater goggles, allowing beavers to see as well on land, as under water.

 
Mother beaver and her baby

Mother beaver and her baby

NPS

Beavers are nocturnal and do not hibernate; they stay active all winter repairing their dams and lodges. They live in colonies and when they find a mate, they stay with them for life. They only live about 8 to 10 years in the wild and have 2 to 4 babies, or kits, in the spring. At birth, beavers are approximately the size of an adult's fist.

 

Beavers were the most hunted animal from the 1600's to the 1800's due to their valuable fur. Beaver fur has two layers, a fatty inner layer and an outer layer that is waterproof. This made beaver hats popular with hunters and eventually beaver hats and clothing became fashionable in Europe. As a result, it is estimated that between 60-400 million beavers were trapped and killed in North America. The beaver trade was one of the reasons people spread west and settled this country.

 
Beaver near its lodge

Beaver near its lodge

NPS

By the late 1800's, beavers were almost extinct and had completely vanished from Virginia. In 1950-52, 2 pairs of beavers were released in Mary Bird Branch and their population has thrived in Prince William Forest Park ever since. In the late 1990's, it was estimated that over 80 beavers lived in the park.

Did You Know?

Great Horned Owl

An owl's eyes are fixed in place because their large size provides no room for muscle. To compensate for this, it can turn its head in almost any direction and angle, including the ability to rotate its head nearly 280 degrees. By comparison, people can only turn their heads a mere 90 degrees!