There is no shortage of amazing animals out in the wild. Some look magnificent, some are physically impressive and others are ferociously vicious or incredibly venomous.
But there are a few animals, only a few, capable of fundamentally changing the environment around them. Beavers are that animal.
Even a single beaver is capable of turning a small stream into thriving wetlands given enough time and trees, chopping down the latter with their oversized teeth.
That sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. But, if they can cut down trees with their teeth, what else can they do with them? Are beavers actually dangerous?
Yes, beavers can be quite dangerous to people. Beavers are extremely large rodents with very large, sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Beavers are also surprisingly agile and territorial, and might attack people with no warning.
I know it sounds hilarious, like a cartoon skit gone wrong, but I can promise you now that a beaver attack is no joke.
They have killed people in the past, and their large teeth are capable of inflicting hideous penetrating wounds.
Attacks are very likely if you are in a beaver’s territory or come too close to its lodge.
This isn’t some cuddly animal you’re dealing with, and you’ll want to know what else they can do and how to avoid being attacked. I will tell you more below.
Beavers Overview, Temperament and Habitat
As I mentioned above, beavers are extremely large rodents. They also happen to be the second largest in the world, and the very largest found on the North American continent.
These things aren’t some aquatic rat! An adult beaver can tip the scales at more than 55 pounds (25 kilos), and stand almost as tall as a golden retriever. That’s a monstrous rodent all right!
But of course the most notable features of a beaver are its teeth and its long, flat, paddle-like tail. The tail is used to help them swim, and they are amazingly agile in the water.
They also use it as a signal by whacking it into the water or the ground, alerting other nearby beavers to trouble.
But it is the teeth of the beaver that make it so amazingly capable as an engineer out in nature- and also so dangerous!
Beavers use their teeth, which are coated with a naturally occurring iron, to gnaw through trees which they then process into limbs.
They use these limbs and mud to dam off any flowing water they can find. Even a small trickle of water can turn into a pond, and then continually overflow until it turns into proper wetlands, completely changing an ecosystem!
Beavers can also dam larger waterways with their immense constructions that can weigh many tons.
Beaver dams have caused severe floods, cut off water supplies to settlements downstream, and other tremendous damage – so they must be controlled.
Much of the time, these extra large dams have to be dynamited to be removed!
But beavers aren’t just an unholy menace: they are surprisingly social, familial animals, with multiple generations of the same family living in or near the same lodge and working together to construct dams and help raise younger siblings.
Awfully sweet, but they can still be very dangerous as we will learn!
Do Beavers Protect Their Territory?
Yes, you better believe it! Beavers are highly territorial and they will often defend their territory vigorously, attempting to drive out any intruders be they man or animal.
While some beavers might retreat to their lodge and hunker down with their family, any beaver that has its relatives or especially its young in the area is likely to fight fiercely if encroached upon.
Do Beavers Act Aggressively Toward Each Other?
Sometimes, though this is unlikely between beavers that are related. Though sometimes a mature male in a family will need to leave and start his own family some distance away.
However, beavers from unrelated clans that happen to enter one another’s territory might be attacked.
Do Beavers Threaten People?
Yes, they can and they have, historically. Beavers have surprisingly good senses, and they generally will detect human beings in their territory reliably and quickly.
The closer you get to a beaver’s lodge, the more upset it is going to get and the more likely an attack will be.
Have There Been Recorded Beaver Attacks on People?
Yes, there have been, sadly. In fact, there have been quite a few recorded beaver attacks throughout history and even today in recent memory.
In fact, a man in Europe was recently killed by a beaver after it bit into his thigh and severed his femoral artery.
Most other beaver attacks aren’t fatal, but serious injuries and even maiming are likely.
What Will Trigger a Beaver Attack on a Person?
The number one cause of beaver attacks on people is a human getting too close to it under any circumstances, and especially drawing near to a beaver that is in its territory, protecting its young, or is near its lodge.
Also, beavers are known to be more or less aggressive based on their past experiences with people.
Beavers that have lived in peaceful isolation with no negative interactions with humans are less likely to become aggressive.
Ones that live near areas of human habitation, and have to deal with them regularly, are more likely to be aggressive.
In either case, don’t depend on this for protection: stay well away from any beavers you see, and do make it a point to steer clear of their territory unless you have a good reason to enter!
Just How Strong is a Beaver?
Beavers aren’t particularly athletic by human standards, but these large rodents are still surprisingly strong.
They have to be – they can chew through trees using their mouths and work tirelessly to construct their massive dams and lodges! This certainly speaks to their amazing endurance.
These two facets together combine to make a beaver bite supremely nasty, so you want to avoid close contact at all costs.
Can Beavers Bite?
Yes, they can, and yes, they will! Beavers rely on their bite as their primary means of self-defense. They do have claws, but these are nothing compared to the iron-coated chisels they call teeth.
What Does a Beaver Attack Look Like?
A beaver attack might begin with a warning, consisting of it slapping its tail on the surface of the water or on land.
The purpose of this is to alert any other beavers in the area that there is trouble brewing, and perhaps also to give notice to an intruder.
If that doesn’t work, and the intruder comes too close to the beaver or the beaver decides it has put up with enough, it will charge and then bite.
As mentioned above, a beaver bite is truly hideous. The immense frontal incisors they use to chew through trees have a decidedly sharp and chisel-like shape, and because they are coated with naturally occurring iron they are incredibly durable.
Driven by the overdeveloped, muscular jaws of the beaver, these teeth are going to penetrate very deeply with ease.
Any wound produced by such a bite is going to be severe, and beavers can bite over and over again very quickly.
To make matters even more, beavers are known to attack as a family, meaning you might literally be torn apart before you can react to the first one.
How Do You Respond to a Beavers Attack?
Your very best bet against an impending beaver attack is to run as far and as fast as you can. Beavers are surprisingly agile on land, but generally can’t outrun a human in favorable terrain.
If avoidance is unavailable or just not an option, use anything at all that you have to fight back or at the very least keep the beaver at a distance. If the beaver can bite you, you are in grave danger.
Will a Beaver Eat a Person?!
Surprisingly, no. I don’t blame you for thinking beavers are bloodthirsty by now, but though they are quite dangerous they are also vegetarians: they don’t eat meat and they won’t eat people.
They definitely don’t attack you with the intention of eating you.
Can People Catch Diseases from Beavers?
Yes. Sadly, beavers are known to carry quite a few diseases that are transmissible to people. One of them is the humorously named but still quite serious beaver fever, properly called giardiasis.
This nasty infection is actually caused by a parasite that beavers carry, and causes horrendous diarrhea, crippling stomach cramps, vomiting, and pronounced weight loss. Prompt medical treatment is a necessity for those infected.
Aside from that germ, beavers are also capable of transmitting less exotic but still serious bugs like salmonella, tularemia and rabies aside from others.
If you come into contact with any beaver, their structures or their secretions, seek medical attention just to be on the safe side.