Feeding ecology and diet

Mountain beavers are herbivores with a large cecum, a di-verticulum from the junction of the small and large intestine, in which microbes digest much of the vegetation. They are

Mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa) burrows are built around the nest. (Photo by © Erwin & Peggy Bauer/Animals Animals. Reproduced by permission.)

also copraphagic, consuming their excreted soft pellets, a type of feces. This behavior allows digestion of microbial protein and other nutrients remaining in the soft pellets. Mountain beavers travel along their tunnels where they exit and gather food on the surface. During spring and summer, various ferns, grasses, and herbs are eaten along with some leaves and shoots of shrubs. During winter, their diet shifts to ferns, shrubs, and conifers. Mountain beaver readily climb 6.5 ft (2 m) or higher in trees to clip small branches; some saplings appear as if they have been severely pruned. Also during winter, mountain beavers will feed on the bark of young conifers, sometimes girdling trees. Most of their moisture is supplied in their food, but additional water is generally required because mountain beaver have inefficient kidneys and cannot concentrate urine to the extent as other rodents. The tunnels are strategically located so the foraging animal need move only short distances from the safety of their burrows. They cut vegetation and place it at their burrow entrances. Although sometimes food is eaten on the surface, more often it is transported underground for later consumption.

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