Friday, February 13, 2009

Here's a strange one ...

It looks a little like a beaver, but doesn't have a paddle tail. It looks like a muskrat, but is way too small. Lacks the webbed feet of a nutria. So what is it? It's a mountain beaver. Mountain beavers, (Aplodontia rufa), are not true beavers, despite their name, and they don't always live on mountains. Mountain beavers are the world's most primitive rodent. They have survived relatively unchanged for the past 40,000 years or so, often called a "living fossil." They are found in limited numbers in the dense underbrush of Pacific Northwest forests, ranging from Northern California to British Columbia. They like brushy slopes and ravines, particularly those that have been logged or disturbed. And they like dampness, perhaps because their primitive kidneys don't work so well and they need to drink a lot — two-thirds of their body weight daily. Mountain beavers have damaged an estimated 300,000 acres of commercial coniferous tree species in western Washington and Oregon. The damage period extends to about 20 years after planting. Mountain Beavers cause economic damage by clipping and topping off new seedlings, girdling trees & roots, leading to stunted growth and production losses in forestry plantations. Found because of a mention at StrangeArk, to an article at The Seattle Times, and more from here. There is a vast amount of information here, including more photos. Image Source

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