A beaver seen clearly swimming in water.
A beaver at home in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Richard Nelson


The beaver is one of the north country's best known and most intriguing wild animals. This large member of the rodent family is known for its unique appearance and complex, ingenious way of living. The beaver is widely admired and appreciated, although it sometimes damages our neatly managed rural and suburban environments. Probably no other wild animal has affected the history of a continent as significantly as the beaver has the American and Canadian frontiers.

A paddle-shaped tail, webbed hind feet and clawed front paws, big chisel teeth, and a sleek, seal-like body add up to a unique mammal that cuts down trees, builds dams, and spends most of its time in the water.

By making ponds and cutting down trees and shrubs, beavers create wetlands and openings in the forest. These are wonderfully diverse habitats, attracting large numbers of other species such as insects and frogs, all kinds of birds from sparrows to eagles, and mammals of every size from tiny voles, to mink, to moose. Beaver ponds are also ideal for fish and for nesting waterfowl.

We might take a lesson from the beaver, whose works-like our own-dramatically changed the ecological landscape of North America. But the beaver has done it in ways that enrich the environment, increase the diversity of wild species and add immeasurably to the quality of our own lives

Nature's engineer and hydrologist can be seen (and heard) each summer, working industriously in ponds, rivers, and lakes throughout Gates of the Arctic National Park.


Last updated: December 17, 2020

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