I was just backpacking in the Sierras and there were beavers in the streams and alpine lakes we hiked past.
The lakes and flat spots were often 1-3 miles apart. How do beavers expand their territory? Do offspring walk overland to a new, suitable spot? I know they don’t like to be out of the water.


Hi, Ellen. Thank you for submitting your question!

Beavers live in family units consisting of a mating pair, young offspring, and offspring from the previous year. When a beaver turns two, they must go out in search of a place to establish a colony of their own. Beaver travel quite far in search of suitable habitat if they must, though the river you walked along must be large enough to support multiple beaver colonies. Beavers are extremely territorial, so young beaver may have swam upstream to establish a new spot, but more likely they walked. Beaver typically won’t even allow a stray adult to pass through. Beaver are not strong walkers so establishing a new colony is a very dangerous time in a beavers life!

Beaver colonies can actually take up about a half mile stretch of a river so the spacing you observed of the dams would be consistent with individual family units. They establish their territory by marking the surrounding area with scent mounds (piles of soil they leave their scent on). Beaver have been known to fight outsiders as well.

We hope this answered your question! Feel free to send questions anytime, we’re here to help!