The role of forage availability on diet choice and body condition in American beavers (Castor canadensis)

William J. Severud, Steve K. Windels, Jerrold L. Belant, John G. Bruggink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Forage availability can affect body condition and reproduction in wildlife. We used terrestrial and aquatic vegetation sampling, stable isotope analysis, and livetrapping to investigate the influence of estimated forage biomass on diet, body condition, and reproduction in American beavers (Castor canadensis) in the Namakan Reservoir, Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA, May 2008-September 2009. Available terrestrial and emergent aquatic forage varied greatly among territories, but floating leaf aquatic forage was low in abundance in all territories. Variation in estimated biomass of available emergent and terrestrial vegetation did not explain variation in respective assimilated diets, but variation in floating leaf vegetation explained 31% of variation in assimilated floating leaf diets. No models using available vegetation explained variation in body condition. Body condition of individual females in spring did not affect kit catch per unit effort, and overwinter body condition of subadults and adults was similar between territories with and without kits. We found no evidence that available aquatic vegetation affected beaver body condition or fitness. Available forage may be above minimum thresholds to detect differences in diet choice or body condition. Other factors such as water level fluctuations or climatic variables may also explain variation in beaver body condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
JournalMammalian Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Northern Michigan University , Voyageurs National Park , National Park Service (NPS) Great Lakes Network Inventory and Monitoring Program and NPS Great Lakes Research and Education Center for financial and logistical support. Field assistance was provided by D. Vincent, C. Trembath, B. Henning, B. Olson, J. Randa, D. Morris, L. Gaillard, K. Frerker, B. Behrens, and J. Markuson. A. Rebertus provided valuable guidance with statistical analyses. Thank you to two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


  • American beaver
  • Available forage
  • Body condition
  • Castor canadensis
  • Diet
  • Minnesota
  • Stable isotope analysis


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