(BEAVERS/WILDLIFE CONSERVATION) April 7 is International Beaver Day, a day aimed at celebrating and raising awareness about these furry, dam-building rodents.

Beavers are remarkable creatures, serving an important role in solving many of our planet’s major environmental problems. Their dams are considered one of the Earth’s best life support systems, restoring wildlife habitats for a number of species, protecting and filtering our drinking water, storing flood waters to reduce property damage, and maintaining surface water flow during drought periods.

However, North America’s beaver has been on the decline for several years now, reducing to a shocking 10 percent or less of their original population since Euro-American colonization.

Sadly, as beaver numbers declined, the majority of wetlands drained, disconnecting waterways from their floodplains, and eventually resulting in many of today’s problems with water pollution, erosion, and damage from regional floods and droughts.

In celebration of Beaver Day and these noble gnawers, read up on the fun facts below, and help spread the word about nature’s engineer. — Global Animal

Beavers are known to build complex and impressive dams in creeks. Photo Credit: Steven David Johnson via Flickr

Care2, Adam Hunter

If you haven’t stopped to appreciate the benefits of having beavers in the world, today’s a good opportunity to do so. International Beaver Day, which was first launched in 2009 by a non-profit organization called Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife (BWW), celebrates the rodent’s environmental contributions and its important role in landscapes.

The dams that beavers build can in turn create and restore wetlands, which protect and filter our drinking water, provide wildlife habitats, store flood waters to reduce property damage and maintain surface water flow during droughts. Beavers were once endangered throughout much of their range, but have made a remarkable comeback over the last century. In North America, they can even be found in rivers and creeks within many major cities.

BWW declared April 7 International Beaver Day to honour Dorothy Richards, also known as the “Beaver Woman,” whose birthday fell on the same day. Before her death in 1985, Richards studied beavers for 50 years, had two consecutive beaver families living in an addition to her house and wrote a book called Beaversprite: My Years Building an Animal Sanctuary.

To celebrate International Beaver Day, here are seven facts about these iconic and industrious rodents:

1. Beavers can stay underwater for 15 minutes without coming up for air.

Photo Credit: A. Good/Rex Features

2. The beaver is Canada’s biggest rodent and the second-largest on the planet.

3. Beavers’ transparent eyelids work like goggles, by protecting their eyeballs as they swim underwater.

Photo Credit: Michael S. Quinton National Geographic

4. The beaver has been Canada’s national symbol for more than 300 years.

5. Beavers’ ear openings and nostrils have valves that can be closed when underwater.

Photo Credit: Stevehdc, Wikimedia Commons

6. The world’s largest beaver dam is 850 meters long and located in Wood Buffalo National Park.

7. Beavers sharpen their incisors (teeth) by grinding them against one another.