Beavers (Castor canadensis) are North America's largest native rodents and are a valuable component of Massachusetts' fauna. Weighing between 35 and 80 pounds as adults, they can be 2-3 feet in length, with an additional 10-18 inches for the tail. Males and females are similar in size.
Beavers typically have a dark brown to reddish brown fur coat. They are muscular animals with large bones, well-developed incisors, and a massive skull that supports strong chewing muscles. In order to move swiftly in the water, beavers have large, webbed hind feet and a flat, wide leathery tail. Their front feet are small and dexterous, which allows the beaver to carry construction material such as stones and sticks.
An animal often mistaken for the beaver is the much smaller muskrat, which is another aquatic rodent. However, muskrats only weigh 2-3 pounds and have a narrow, rat-like tail.
Not long ago the beaver was absent from the state. In fact, it was absent from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. Intensive unregulated hunting and trapping, combined with deforestation to clear land for agriculture, led to the disappearance of beaver habitat and the beaver.
In the early 1900's, forested habitat started to recover when many farmers abandoned their farms in order to take jobs in cities or to start new farms in the more fertile Midwestern United States. With the forests able to retake the landscape, the beaver was able to return.
In 1928, beavers were found in West Stockbridge. This was the first recorded occurrence of beaver in the state since 1750. More