Popular trees on the beaver's menu
The passage about Teddy Roosevelt's "beavered-down" trees aroused my curiosity about beavers. I've read several dozen webpages this evening, trying to learn exactly what trees they prefer.
I've read about beavers chewing down white cedars and cherry trees in Washington D.C., elm, cottonwood, hackberry and maple in Tennessee, and willow, maple, birch, aspen, cottonwood, beech, poplar, and alder trees in New Hampshire. In Colorado, willow, aspen and cottonwood are mentioned again.
On several sites, I read that beavers prefer to cut down soft-wooded trees which enables harder-wooded species like oaks and hickories to get more sunshine and flourish. However, Bob Arnebeck provides images of oak trees taken down by beavers, so I wonder if that theory holds true.
American Wildlife and Plants by Martin, Zim, and Nelson (full citation at bottom of the page) cites the following trees as used by beaver in various parts of the U.S.: poplar (cottonwoods and aspens), willow, birch, hazelnut, serviceberry, maple, alder, ash, sweetgum, pine, dogwood, oak, sycamore, redcedar, and Douglasfir.
According to Martin, et al, poplar trees are especially important to the beaver's diet in the Northeast U.S. and in the West, and sweetgum makes up a significant portion of their diet in the Southeast.
I can testify from personal knowledge and observation that beavers in the Nebraska Sandhills thrive in little streams with willows on the banks.
Why do beavers cut down trees? They eat the bark and wood, as well as using the branches in their dams and lodges.
Photo of the "beavered-down" tree courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.