Canada’s National Symbol

The humble beaver

Beavers are the second largest rodent in the world and Canada is the second largest country.

Beavers are relatively nice and community minded, often sharing their lodges with muskrats, and warning others of danger with a slap of their tale while Canada has the longest undefended border, welcomes refugees and has an international reputation for being polite. Immigration has added more than 200 other languages to the mix, with one-fifth of the population speaking a mother tongue other than English or French. Immigration is currently at a 75-year high, with newcomers accounting for two-thirds of the country’s recent population growth.

Just don’t underestimate them, beavers can be territorial, and those teeth can cause nasty bites.

Both beavers and Canadians have found a unique ways to survive the cold. Beaver build lodges, truly impressive structures of trees, rocks and mud. Entrances are below the water level, making the lodge secure and helping to keep it warm like Canadians pulling out their quilts, heavy curtains and snuggly jammies. Canadians have ice hotels, Carnaval, skating, and ice fishing to get us through the winter.

Beavers are well known builders, the largest beaver dam ever discovered is 850 metres long or 2,788 feet, and located in Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park. Canadians also like to build big things: there’s the CN Tower, of course, which was the world’s largest free-standing structure until 2010, when it was edged out of its category by both the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Abu Dhabi and the Guangzhou Tower in Guangzhou. We also have a penchant for slightly quirkier big things—most notably, a menagerie of giant roadside attractions dotted across the county. From the giant potato in PEI to the world’s largest hockey stick in Duncan, BC, Canada’s landscape is punctuated by supersized landmarks—including an enormous beaver in Beaverlodge (of course), Alberta.

Canadians live in a wide range of environments: Arctic ice, coastal rainforest, large urban landscapes and sky-scraping mountains. We’ve adapted pretty well, we manage not to freeze to death, we manage not to spend our days wet, and we manage to get from place to place without exhausting ourselves. We’re pretty resilient, no matter what the environment throws at us. Beavers have some great adaptations too. For one thing, their lips close behind their front teeth, allowing them to drag building material and food through the water without … well, drowning. Handy, that. Also, beavers have nose and ear valves to keep water out while they’re diving, and they have transparent nictitating membranes or third eyelids that allow them to open their eyes underwater. And, maybe most awesomely, the enamel on beavers’ teeth has iron in it, making their chompers super strong and capable of felling trees.