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Survey & Field Signs

Beaver surveying – what to look for

When carrying out any survey, it is very important to record accurate information about the survey location and details of any findings. Make note of the location or grid reference on a map ( instructions can be seen on the right column of OS maps. )  Written notes, and a sketch of surroundings are equally important. Record notable features, and estimated distances to field edges, fences, trees, woodland corners / edges, pylon lines, which bank in relation to water flow. These details will be important when future surveys are needed to confirm or monitor evidence of beavers. Negative findings are also worth recording for future reference.

 Disturbance to beavers

It is important that you do not cause unnecessary disturbance to beavers – especially during the breeding season from April to June. If you find a beaver lodge, avoid standing too close to it (you could cause a cave in of a nearby burrow tunnel) and keep noise levels to an absolute minimum. Try also to keep downwind and never allow dogs within the immediate area.

 When looking for beaver presence, it is important to be able to recognise field signs. The images below are a selection of field signs to look out for. 

Beaver front and hind prints
Front and Hind prints
otter prints
Otter prints






Picture above: Beaver hind and foreprint, in comparison to otter prints on right.


 Beaver prints in snow in the image to the right.  
Beaver prints in snow
Beaver prints in snow

Images below showing beaver felled willows. The image on the left shows regrowth after one year. Close inspection will show teeth chisel marks on the stump. The image on the right is fresh during winter 2010. Regrowth will appear during spring.  Willows have evolved over millions of years to coexist with beavers. It is also possible that beaver saliva may stimulate regrowth, similar to that found in European elk.

willow regrowth
Willow regrowth



Felled tree
Felled tree


Beaver trail leading from river to bankside feeding area, otters can leave similar paths.  Feeding remains, branches that have been de-barked by the water’s edge.




Beaver Trail
Beaver Trail
beaver feeding signs
Beaver Feeding signs
lodge on pond
Beaver Lodge on pond

 A typical beaver lodge with underwater entrance on an open water body/pond. Lodges on watercourses are usually higher up a banking to allow for rapid rises in water levels.       

Beaver Lodge
Beaver Lodge

 Beaver lodges can blend very easily into the background.  A well-worn path leads from the water’s edge to the lodge where a beaver has been adding materials to the lodge. (Note the lack of felled trees and stumps near this 2 year old lodge)

Text and images © Alan Ross