Beaver Fact of the Week: Beavers Don’t Like Running Water

How do beavers know when their dams need fixing? Do they go out every day and visually inspect the dam for defects?

Nope! Beavers identify structural damages in their dams by the sound of running water. To them, a perfect dam doesn’t let any water through, so it is quite. The more water is getting through the dam, the louder the water. It’s just like how a slightly leaky faucet slowly dripping away is way quieter than if you leave every faucet, shower-head, and bathtub running full blast. When a beaver hears water running too fast near the dam, it is compelled to fix wherever the leak is and will judge his success based on how much quieter the water gets.

Leaky faucet? Not too alarming. It'd take a while for a leaky faucet to ruin my house so fixing it isn't a urgent priority. Having every faucet, tub, and shower stuck running full blast? Way more alarming, and definitely something that needs to be fixed ASAP. Beavers approach fixing their dams in the same way - the more water is leaking, the higher priority fixing it is. They just judge the amount of water leaking by how loud the flowing water sounds are.
Leaky faucet? Not too alarming. It’d take a while for a leaky faucet to ruin my house so fixing it isn’t a urgent priority. Having every faucet, tub, and shower stuck running full blast? Way more alarming, and definitely something that needs to be fixed ASAP. Beavers approach fixing their dams in the same way – the more water is leaking, the higher priority fixing it is. They just judge the amount of water leaking by how loud the flowing water sounds are.

In parts of Canada, highway engineers have started using recordings of flowing water to get beavers to build dams in a calculated way such that they naturally stop water from flooding roads. Pretty clever!

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