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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Food caching behavior of the Eurasian beaver in northern Europe

Busher, Peter E.; Mayer, Martin; Ulevicius, Alius; Samus, Arunas; Hartman, Goran; Rosell, Frank

Abstract

Food storage (caching, hoarding), which is observed in many species of animals, increases food availability during times of food insecurity. Both species of beaver (Eurasian beaver, Castor fiber, and the North American beaver, C. canadensis) living at northern latitudes where food may be scarce during winter are larder-hoarders, constructing a food cache of branches of woody species during autumn. We studied the food caching behavior of the Eurasian beaver in three northern European countries (Sweden, Norway, Lithuania) to provide additional insight into this important behavior. Thirty-seven of forty-seven (79%) active family groups had food caches by mid-November and 41 of 47 (87%) had caches by December. Water depth of caches ranged from 1 to 2.3 m and depths at caches in Sweden were significantly deeper than in either Norway or Lithuania. Construction of caches began as early as late September (week 39/40) in Sweden and Lithuania and by mid-October (week 42) in Norway. We observed plasticity in timing of cache initiation but the majority of active sites in all areas had food caches by the beginning of November (week 45). Declining air temperature and mean minimum temperatures of 0 degrees C or below were associated with cache initiation. Caches in Lithuania were larger than in Sweden and Norway, which may be associated with colder winter temperatures. We did not find any relationship between family size or length of territory occupancy and cache size at our Norway sites where population demographics were available. Our results are generally consistent with other studies of food caching behavior in both species and suggest general similarities as well as behavioral plasticity in this important evolutionary strategy.

Keywords

Castor fiber; environmental stimuli; Eurasian beaver; food cache

Published in

Wildlife Biology
2020, volume: 2020, number: 3, article number: wlb.00734
Publisher: WILDLIFE BIOLOGY

Authors' information

Busher, Peter E.
Boston University
Mayer, Martin
Aarhus University
Ulevicius, Alius
Vilnius University
Samus, Arunas
Vilnius University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Rosell, Frank
University College of Southeast Norway (USN)

UKÄ Subject classification

Zoology

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2981/wlb.00734

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/110120