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When researching if beavers make good pets, I found several articles about beavers’ eyesight, so I wanted to share the information I found.

Beavers can see in the dark, but their eyesight is reduced at night.  Their vision is more suited to daytime activities; however, a study shows that the beaver has adapted to become a nocturnal animal due to centuries of hunting.

The information surprised me as I had always thought that beavers were nocturnal and had assumed they would be able to see better at night.  I wanted to find out why beavers would come out at night if their eyesight were better suited to the daytime. 

I discovered a few reasons why beavers come out at night instead of during the day.

Do Beavers see well?

Beavers have tiny black eyes. Their vision is not acute, and they do not see well during the day or at night.  Beavers are nearsighted mammals, and studies have shown that they can see color.

Want to know why beavers are classed as mammals? Find out here

Why do beavers come out at night if their eyesight is better suited to daytime?

Scientists believe, and a study suggests, that beavers are better adapted to daytime (diurnal) activities but have switched to night-time (nocturnal) activities to avoid humans and other prey that hunt them as prey. 

Although the beaver population is stable and of the least concern, the beaver population almost went extinct due to hunting and trapping during the 16th to the 19th century. 

Hunting controls and efforts to reintroduce the beaver in America prevented extinction during the last century. Still, the study shows that this hunting affected them and changed their activities to night-time. 

It is thought that there were as many as 400 million beavers when the first trappers and traders arrived, but by 1900, there were as few as 100,000.

The study has suggested the change to nocturnal activities in the journal Mammalian Biology could be the legacy of a long period of persecution beginning long ago in the Pleistocene epoch, which occurred 2.6 million – 11.7 thousand years ago.  Hunters and trappers would have gone out in the daytime with hand-held weapons to hunt them.

The study points out that their night-time activities may not be optimal for the beaver for several reasons.  Beavers active during the day would lose less energy allowing the beaver to maintain its core internal temperature.  With the nights colder than the days, this would be much more difficult for the beaver.

Beavers are herbivores, and their food is always available to them, so they have no reason to forage during the night.

Beavers are great for the environment. Find out more in this article I wrote.

In safe environments, do beavers come out during the day?

There are several predators of the beaver in Denali National park and preserve in Alaska, such as the grizzly bear, mountain lion, and wolves.  However, it was found that the beavers would still work during the daytime due to the lack of humans around.   Beavers in remote areas have often been seen during the day.

Can beavers see underwater?

Although beavers have poor eyesight during the day and at night-time, beavers can see while swimming underwater.  Beavers have a third eyelid, a nictitating membrane that is transparent or translucent and drawn across the eye to protect it while diving underwater.  Several other aquatic animals have nictitating layers, including manatees, crocodiles, seals, fish, and some sharks.  

American Beaver: Master Builders of the Waterways – Explore the fascinating life of the American beaver, an expert engineer shaping North American waterways. Learn about its dam-building skills and ecological impact.

Do beaver’s eyes shine in the light?

Some animals, such as dogs, cats, wolves, and coyotes, have superior night vision to humans, helping them hunt at night.  The night vision of these and other nocturnal animals has been achieved by an extra layer of reflective tissue behind their eyes called the tapetum lucidum.  When a light is shined on them, they appear to glow green, caused by the retroreflector enhancing the light.

Beavers do not have the retroreflector and cannot see well in the dark; their eyes do not reflect the light or shine in the torchlight.

Do you know how giant beavers grow? Do their teeth ever stop growing? Find out here


It is easy to assume that beavers’ eyes are helpful in the dark as they are nocturnal animals, but this is far from the truth.  Centuries of hunting have possibly changed the beaver from a diurnal animal to a nocturnal creature, and it is rare to see one during the day. 

In the urban dictionary, ‘Beaver eyes’ is a slang term for using abnormally good eyesight to see something clearly or find something concealed.’ which could not be further from the truth.

American Beaver: Master Builder of Wetlands – Explore the waterways and discover the industrious American beaver. Learn about its engineering prowess, construction of dams and lodges, aquatic adaptations, and the ecological significance of beaver-created wetlands.

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