Beavers (Castor canadensis) are important in ecosystems and to humans. Although beavers are increasingly protected from harvest, relatively few studies of unexploited beaver populations have been reported. Furthermore, few radiotelemetry studies exist for beavers because no practical method of attaching a radiotransmitter to beavers was available until recently. We used radiotelemetry, remote videography, and trapping data to quantify survival, dispersal, and natality of unexploited beavers in southern Illinois, USA, during 2004 to 2006. Beaver colony density was one of the highest reported in the wildlife literature at 3.27 colonies/km2. We monitored 62 beavers for survival; all mortalities (n = 15) occurred during the fall and winter seasons. The pooled annual survival rate for adult and juvenile females was (x¯ ± SE) 0.76 ± 0.05. Annual survival rates for adult and juvenile males were 0.87 ± 0.04 and 0.55 ± 0.07, respectively. Seasonal survival only differed among sex classes and age classes during the fall. Dispersal rates for juvenile beavers ranged from 0.38 ± 0.13 to 0.59 ± 0.13 and did not vary by sex or age. To quantify natality and recruitment, we captured and euthanized 79 beavers adjacent to our live-capture area; we found a low pregnancy rate of adult females (36%), and no juveniles were bred. Natality of bred females was 3.6 offspring per adult female, and 0.36 kits were recruited per adult female. Apparent kit survival was 28%. Our research provides information to wildlife managers about beaver demographics for a high-density population, based on relatively large sample sizes and novel research techniques for the species.
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Vol. 74 • No. 2