Factors influencing forage selection by the North American beaver (Castor canadensis)
Across their range, a large number of biotic and abiotic factors are known to influence the choice of browse plant and the foraging behaviour of the North American beaver (Castor canadensis). We used generalized linear mixed-effects models to investigate sets of variables that may influence the foraging choices of beaver: forage species, distance of forage from water, forage density, and site. Communities across the study sites in central British Columbia, Canada, were dominated by Salix sitchensis, Salix lucida, and Alnus spp. Density had no impact on forage selection, while site, distance from water, and species identity all influenced the foraging decisions of beaver. We postulated that these factors may be ordered hierarchically: large-scale factors, such as site, followed by the medium-scale distance from water, and species of plant at the finest scale. Forage items in some sites had a higher probability of being browsed than in others, while in all sites the probability of being browsed decreased with increasing distance from water. Beaver appeared to be foraging as “picky” generalists; of the 9 plant species examined, 3 species of Salix (S. scouleriana, S. drummondiana and S. sitchensis) were selected by beaver, Salix bebbiana was avoided, and 5 species were neither selected for nor against. Browse selection within the genus Salix implied that beaver were able to differentiate among closely related species. Detailed information on forage selection is a crucial first step in designing and interpreting models that predict large-scale distributional patterns of beaver.
KeywordsBeaver Castor canadensis Forage selection Mixed-effects models Riparian Salix
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