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Dam Building: Instinct or Learned Behavior?

posted Feb 2, 2011, 8:27 PM by Beaver Economy Santa Fe D11   [ updated Mar 2, 2011, 7:19 PM ]

I have found this site particularly interesting because of the fact that it isn’t simply a list of facts about beavers. This site covers an article in the newspaper Juneau Empire. The article is investigating whether or not the dam building of beavers is an instinctive habit or a learned behavior.

To do this, Lars Wilsson had a test group of 4 adult beavers and further on in the experiment, also raised several kits from birth. The young beavers were kept apart from the adults so that they would have no way to learn the behavior of dam building in response to the sound of flowing water. The results of his experiment were quite amazing. He discovered that the young beavers, who had never seen or built a dam before, built a similar dam to the adult beavers on their first try. He further investigated whether it was the sight of flowing water that triggered this dam building behavior or if it was sound that triggered it. The results of this were, again, astounding. Beavers’ dam building instinct was triggered by merely the sound of flowing water, not the sight. In one of his experiments, a beaver built a dam next to a speaker in a dry tank that was playing the sound of flowing water. The article goes into further detail about methods and strategies that could be implemented that will allow water to flow without making noise, which are implemented in numerous areas surrounding Juneau, Alaska.


Chris Huston