Is it a groundhog? Is it a Marmot? No, look! It’s a beaver? Wait, maybe it’s an otter?
Beavers are among the most easily recognizable animals, with their iconic brown fur, oversized front teeth, and flat paddle-shaped tail. They are most commonly seen in the water building dams, especially here in North America.
However, there are a few other animals that share some of the same physical features as these furry mammals. At first glance, it may be hard to tell the difference. But when you know some of the key physical differences of animals that look like beavers, you’ll easily know what animal you spotted!
So today, we will look at 8 animals that look like beavers that are not beavers. Once you know more about the habits of these animals it’s much easier to distinguish between them. And your friends and family will be impressed with your newfound knowledge!
What do Beavers Look Like?
Before looking at the 8 animals that look like beavers, it’s important to fully understand what beavers look like and a little more about their habits. Beavers are semi-aquatic mammals that love being in and around water, whether it be in rivers, streams, or ponds.
That’s the best place for them to build their habitats. They spend the majority of their time in the water! Beavers have a stocky build to their body, typically weigh between 24 to 60 pounds, and have a flat, paddle-shaped tail.
You’ll often see them with brown or gray fur, sometimes with a little yellow or red mixed in. They use their tails and webbed feet to help them move through the water and mud. You may also get a glimpse of them using their yellow long chisel-like incisors to use bark, mud, or other vegetation to create a dam.
Their vegetarian diet consists of leaves, twigs, grasses, and bark. Now that we know a little more about beavers, it’ll be easier to look at the animals that look like beavers that aren’t beavers!
8 Animals That Look Like Beavers
There are many animals out there that look like beavers, but depending on habitat, location, time of day, and sometimes the season, you can easily tell the difference and know what animal you’re looking at!
Expert Tip: A quick rule of thumb is to spot the tail. Beavers have a very distinct and unique tail being flat and shaped like a ping pong paddle. No other animal has a tail like this! But if you can’t get a glimpse of the tail, there are many other ways!
The 8 animals that look like beavers include groundhogs, marmots, muskrats, otters, nutrias, woodchucks, capybaras, and quokkas. Let’s look at each one in more detail.
First on our list is the groundhog! Beavers and groundhogs are both rodents similar in size, with beavers being slightly larger. Both animals have fur that is brown or reddish in color. Beavers, however, have two layers of fur, designed to keep them warm in the water. Groundhogs have a single layer of fur which keeps them warm on land.
You won’t see a groundhog spending as much time around water. Instead, you will see them on land, especially on hills with a lot of grass and dirt.
At first glance, it’s easy to mistake a groundhog for a beaver with similar colored fur and body type, but one thing that really set them apart physically is the tail. While a beaver’s tail is paddle-shaped and flat, the tail of a groundhog is long, round, and furry.
Another notable difference is their homes. Groundhogs will dig burrows in the ground and pop out from time to time. You won’t see a beaver doing this. Instead, they will be chomping away on tree bark or other vegetation in preparation to make their dam.
So, if you see a beaver-like animal sticking out from an underground burrow, you can instantly assume it’s not a beaver.
Even though both beavers and marmots are rodents, marmots belong to the Sciuridae (squirrel) family, so marmots are really just giant squirrels. They do share some similar characteristics with beavers though most notably, the fur color. Each animal will have different variations of brown in its coats from light to dark.
Marmots, like groundhogs, have fluffier tails that can either be short or long in length depending on the species. Overall, marmots are smaller than their beaver counterpart and have small, rounded ears. Their front legs are also shorter. Beavers need longer front legs for swimming.
An easy way to tell these animals apart is the location you have spotted them! Marmots like to build burrows in mountainous regions. Also, pay attention to the season you’re in. Chances are you won’t see a marmot in the winter, because they are busy hibernating underground!
Muskrats are probably the easiest of these animals to confuse with beavers. They are both brown-furred rodents who love being surrounded by water! You’ll find muskrats more frequently in marshes swamps, and wetlands, as opposed to the fresh bodies of water that beavers live in.
Outside of the water, there are some more physical differences between muskrats and beavers. First, muskrats are much smaller at only 4 pounds! Beavers can weigh a minimum of 24 pounds. Muskrats are also half the size of the beaver lengthwise, at 28 inches. Their tail takes up the majority of that length.
While muskrats may just look like an extra small beaver, one way to spot the difference is the shape of their tail. As we have discussed above, what really sets beavers apart from all these animals, and muskrats are no exception, is their flat paddle-shaped tail. Muskrats have a very long tail that is more rat-like.
These two animals do share a similar diet they are both herbivores. Muskrats love chomping away on roots and grasses.
Expert Tip: A unique quality about muskrats is that they will build channels in marshes and swamps to swim to and from their homes, which they build on banks depending on the water source.
Their habitats typically have an underwater entrance and entrance from the ground. They often connect with another muskrat home for protection.
The otter is probably the most similar to the beaver when it comes to aquatic nature. You may spot an animal that looks like a beaver in the water and wonder, is it a beaver? Is it something else? Well, it might just be an otter!
At a brief glance, it may be hard to tell the difference between an otter and a beaver, especially if they are in the water. Take a closer look and you’ll be able to spot some pretty big differences!
First, beavers have a stockier build to them. Otters have a slim sleek build and longer body. It helps them swim exceptionally fast in the water. Otters also have shorter fur than beavers. Beavers have two coats of fur, one coat that is waterproof. Their fur also keeps them warm in the water.
Otters have to groom themselves throughout the day because their saliva helps keep their short fur water resistant. Another physical difference is the tail. Otters have longer rounded tails covered in short fur while beavers have a flat paddle-shaped tail.
Otters will spend more time playfully swimming, especially on their backs. Beavers are always hard at work in the water building their homes!
The nutria weighs in somewhere between the beaver and the muskrat. It is much smaller than the beaver but larger than the muskrat. Physically, they do have the same yellowish incisors beavers do, webbed back feet, with brown fur. Nutrias tend to have some white fur on their muzzle and a pointed long and hairy tail.
You may also see a nutria sitting on its hind legs since they are longer than the front, unlike the beaver who needs longer front legs for swimming. Nutrias like to be around water, but not so much in it. Their habitats are burrows along riverbanks or heavily vegetated banks near bodies of water.
Nutrias have a vegetarian diet similar to beavers, but it’s more aquatic. They have been known to eat the occasional snail or shellfish if it’s close by.
Woodchucks and beavers both have the same stocky bodies covered in brown fur. Woodchucks, however, tend to be a bit smaller than beavers. It’s possible to find a woodchuck and beaver that weigh about the same though!
Woodchucks will generally weigh in at 10 to 25 pounds, while beavers have a minimum weight of 24 pounds. A light beaver will be a heavier woodchuck.
The most notable physical difference between woodchucks and beavers is their tails! Woodchucks have soft fluffy tails and beavers have a flat paddle-shaped tails. Another difference you can spot with your eye is the feet! Beavers have webbed feet, designed for their semiaquatic way of life, and woodchucks have claws that are important for digging.
You may think that just because they’re called woodchucks, they like wood, but it’s actually the beaver. You can easily spot the beaver’s teeth. They are yellow long incisors that are made specifically for chopping up bark and other vegetation. Woodchucks have white teeth that don’t show.
Expert Tip: Living conditions are also an important difference. Woodchucks like to burrow themselves in the ground, preferably in a forestry area, not a dam in the water like beavers.
So far, the animals on this list have all been smaller than beavers. The capybara is the only rodent that is larger than the beaver. Despite being larger in size though, the capybara can easily be confused for a beaver.
It has reddish-brown fur on top, but underneath it turns a yellow-brown. Also, the capybara has webbed feet to assist in swimming.
While capybaras spend the majority of their time on land, they are known for living in the grasslands in South America near small bodies of water. They can even hold their breath underwater for 5 minutes. Beavers can go up to 15 minutes at a time.
Both animals have large front teeth to help with their dietary habits. Like the beaver, capybaras do enjoy a vegetarian diet, but they add in fruits and melons, as well as eat their own feces to aid in digestion.
Despite living on two completely different continents, quokkas living in Australia and beavers in North America- there are still some pretty remarkable similarities between the two.
Even though quokkas look like a smaller version of a wallaby, they are roughly about the same size as a beaver, with similar colored fur. They also both share a small round face and stocky build. But that’s about where the similarities end physically.
Quokkas have stronger hind legs, much like their wallaby and kangaroo counterparts, and will often be seen sitting on them.
You’ll never see a beaver just randomly climbing trees, but quokkas are very adaptable to this. Also, you may not see a quokka during the day, they are nocturnal animals. Beavers and quokkas have very different living environments. As you know, beavers build dams.
The quokka will make its home in the Acanthocarpus preissii plant. The spikes help protect and guard them as they sleep. Another similarity is their diet. Both are herbivores and love grasses and leaves.
We have taken a look at 8 animals that look that beavers. Overall, it’s clear that while beavers are known for their dams and aquatic way of life, there is a variety of other animals out there that also share some of the same physical characteristics.
If you start to pay attention to some of the smaller differences between these animals, such as location, and living conditions, you’ll easily be able to tell them apart. It’s important to learn about each one in order to understand more about the animal kingdom and how different species work together to create an intricate web of life.