Beaver mother and kits
Beaver lodge, Sac-San Joaquin Delta
Beaver swimming in water
Beaver dam at GCWA

The North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is native to California and considered a "keystone species”. They are ecosystem engineers helping to create and maintain diverse habitat throughout the State. CDFW strives to partner with native tribes, non-governmental organizations, private landowners, and other state and federal agencies to successfully implement restoration projects statewide that support beaver conservation.


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Conservation and Management

The Department supports a comprehensive approach to beaver management in California that is responsive to conservation needs and reported human-beaver conflict, such as property damage (depredation). The conservation and management of this keystone species is supported through the implementation of various nature-based solutions(opens in new tab). The Department also strive to provide funding to partners in conservation conducting restoration projects that can benefit the beaver.

Historically, beavers used to live in nearly every stream in North America with an estimated population of 100-200 million. Human exploitation and eradication efforts reduced those populations to approximately 10-15 million beavers today. Learn more!

Science and Research

CDFW continues working to better understand the complex conservation needs of the beaver, a keystone native species. Research is vital to applying an adaptive approach to managing their population in California.

Beaver Biology


Beavers (Castor Canadensis) are the largest rodent species in North America. They have thick bodies and large heads with brown fur. Adults weigh up to 40 pounds and measure more than 3 feet in length including tail. Beavers are the only species known to create their own habitat, and have evolved perfectly suited for their environment. 

  • Wide flat scaly tailBrown beaver standing still
  • Webbed back feet
  • Nimble hand-like front feet
  • Long chisel-like incisor teeth
  • Thick, water-proof fur


Beavers are strict herbivores and they generally prefer grasses, leaves, and aquatic plants such as cattails, bulrushes, and water lilies. In the fall and winter, they feed primarily on the bark and cambium of shrubs and trees such as aspen, cottonwood, willow and alder. Beavers sometimes consume agricultural crops, and in some cases may travel 100 yards or more from a body of water to reach corn fields, soybean fields, and other crops. In these cases, they generally cut the plants off at ground level and drag them back to the water.


Beavers are monogamous and mate for life. Females reach sexual maturity at 1.5 to 3 years of age and will typically birth 1-4 or more kits per year, depending on habitat quality and food availability. Beavers typically breed only once a year during the winter months. Females give birth to kits in late spring (Baker and Hill 2003).

Beavers live in family units consisting of one adult breeding pair, their young of the year, and young from the previous year. Offspring may remain with the family unit for more than 2 years if habitat quality is poor or population levels reach carrying capacity.

Beaver Behavior

Beavers are generally nocturnal. However, it is not uncommon to see them during the day in larger water bodies. Beavers generally avoid people and do not stray far from the relative safety of water.

  • Beavers need water deep enough to swim to their food sources and avoid predators. beaver grooming tail
  • They build dams and lodges of woody material, dig canals and plug culverts to increase the depth and area of suitable habitat.
  • This woody material is gathered from the ground locally or from small and medium-sized trees that the beavers fell with their specialized teeth.

Beavers do not hibernate. When the water surface freezes in the winter, beavers eat bark and stems from a food “cache” they have anchored to the bottom of the waterway for the winter. They will also swim under the ice to retrieve roots and stems of aquatic plants.

Habitat and Range

Beavers were once one of the most widely distributed mammals in North America. However, beavers were eliminated from much of their range due to unregulated trapping and habitat loss by the late 1800s.

Beavers are commonly known for their ability to build dams and change waterways – but the ecosystem benefits provided to other native species in the process may be less recognized. Through the process of ecosystem engineering, beavers can expand wetland, riparian, and wet meadow habitats and increase wildfire resiliency in areas with known beaver activity. Specifically, beavers can:

  • Improve water quality and control water downstream
  • Repair eroded channels
  • Reconnect streams to their floodplains
  • Provide perennial flow to streams that would otherwise run dry 
  • Create beneficial habitats as refugia to drought, wildfire, and climate change

In areas with known beaver activity, there can also be significant increase in biodiversity. Deer and elk frequent beaver ponds to forage on shrubby plants that grow where beavers cut down trees. Weasels, raccoons, and heron hunt frogs and other prey along the marshy edges of beaver ponds. Sensitive species such as Red-legged, Yellow-legged and Cascade frogs, Sage Grouse, and Willow Flycatchers benefit from habitat created by beaver wetlands. In coastal rivers and streams, Coho salmon can benefit from beaver dams by finding protection from high flows and predators until they are big enough to go out to sea.

Potential Conflict and Depredation

While the ecosystem services provided by beavers are increasingly valued in California, beavers can cause problems or damage to property at times. There are proven effective exclusion methods to mitigate human-beaver conflict and prevent damage due to beaver activity. For more information or to report beaver damage, visit the Human-Wildlife Conflict Program page.

Protecting Trees and Plants

Protective fencing, Beaver Institute

Permanent exclusion and/or deterrents can be effective if selectively deployed to protect trees and shrubs, garden plots or agricultural crops.

  • Install low fence (3 feet) constructed of woven or welded wire mesh. Fence should be well-anchored to the ground, so that beavers do not crush, crawl under, or walk over it.
  • Install electric wire 4-6” above the ground.
  • Encircle tree trunks with hardware cloth, sheet metal, or welded wire mesh (2” x 4”).
  • Paint tree trunks with a sand and paint mixture to prevent beaver gnawing. Sand/paint ratio should be approximately 8 ounces (2/3 cup) of fine sand to one quart exterior latex paint.

Preventing Flooding

Install flow device, beaver deceiver

Beavers are attracted to the sound of running water and will seek to plug most culverts or pipes with the goal of creating more or maintaining pond habitat. Additionally, beavers will repair most dam breaches and plug most culverts and pipes that are installed in order to drain the ponds. However, a variety of devices have been developed for controlling beaver impoundments and keeping blocked culverts open. These deterrents (also referred to as coexistence devices) allow landowners to control the water level in beaver ponds, minimize or eliminate the running water sound that triggers their instinct to plug and repair, and mitigate beaver damming efforts without the beavers being aware of their presence. Learn more about three of these devices:

Additional Resources to Prevent Potential Conflicts

Laws and Regulations

Beavers are classified as a furbearing mammal in California. Below are some, but not all Fish and Game Code (FGC) laws and Title 14 California Code of Regulations (CCR) related to beavers.

Beaver-assisted Restoration

Over the past decade and throughout the western states a paradigm shift has occurred, with a transition from beavers being viewed primarily as a potential nuisance species to the growing recognition of the vast ecological benefits of beaver activity on the landscape. As a result, there is a rapidly expanding desire among landowners, land managers, restoration practitioners, and other stakeholders in California to utilize beavers for habitat and water management, ecosystem restoration, and increased resiliency to climate change and wildfire. To support the re-establishment of beavers as ecosystem engineers throughout their historical native range in California and facilitate their use in restoring watersheds and ecosystem processes, CDFW has recently created a Beaver Restoration Program (BRP).

The overarching goals of the BRP are to improve human-beaver coexistence, gather a comprehensive understanding of where, when, and how beavers can be utilized to restore ecosystem processes and habitats in California, communicate those findings in clear and meaningful ways, and with that knowledge, effectively utilize beavers as a tool (i.e., nature-based solution) in restoring and conserving habitats and watersheds in California.

To share more information about the newly created Beaver Restoration Program, CDFW hosted an informational webinar on Thursday, May 25. The meeting provided a broad overview of CDFW’s Beaver Restoration Program, including its purpose, objectives, tasks, and timelines. Additionally, the meeting addressed the implementation of pilot and future beaver translocation projects, development of a beaver co-existence toolkit, and policy updates, and concluded with a question and answer session. Future public workshops will be scheduled to discuss human-beaver coexistence strategies and the process for developing and requesting beaver translocation projects.

View a recording of the Beaver Restoration Program Informational Meeting (Video)(opens in new tab).

Wildlife Health Lab
1701 Nimbus Road Suite D, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
(916) 358-2790 |