Discover 8 Animals That Look Like Beavers (But Aren’t!)

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: September 16, 2023
© BeautifulPicture/
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Beavers are large, semi-aquatic mammals. They are the second-largest living rodent after capybaras. They are widely known for their iconic flat, paddle-shaped tail and impressive dam-building abilities. There are only two species of beavers named after their native habitats: the North American beaver (Castor canadensis) and the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber). The two species are found in freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, and wetlands across North America, Europe, and Asia. 

Despite their unique look and behavior, beavers can be mistaken for other animals that look strikingly similar!  Keep reading to learn about eight beaver look-alikes!

8 Animals That Look Like Beavers (But Aren’t!)

1. Muskrats

Muskrats are semi-aquatic rodents native to North America.


Scientifically called Ondatra zibethicus, muskrats are semi-aquatic rodents native to North America. They are mistaken for beavers, particularly when both are in the water. For one thing, both species share the same habitat and prefer being alone. On top of that, they both have stout bodies that look similar in size and shape when underwater.

However, muskrats differ from beavers in a few ways. On the ground, muskrats look smaller than beavers, with adult muskrats weighing about four pounds and measuring around 20 inches long. Another identifying feature is that muskrats have a more slender and hairless tail. 

Moreover, these two animals differ in their feeding habits. While muskrats are omnivorous and forage around shallow waters looking for vegetation and aquatic animals, beavers are herbivores and eat tree bark, grasses, and aquatic plants.

2. Nutrias

capybara vs nutria
Nutrias have webbed hind feet, long tails, and a beaver-like body shape.

©Sonja Guijarro/

Native to temperate and subtropical South America, nutrias, or Myocastor coypus, are semi-aquatic rodents often confused with beavers because of their similar appearance. Nutrias have webbed hind feet, long tails, and a beaver-like body shape. Nutrias have brown fur, similar to beavers. However, while it has roughly the same color, nutria fur is coarser. Besides, their tails are thinner and hairless compared to the thick-furred tail of a beaver.

Another easiest way to differentiate a nutria from a beaver is by observing their behavior. Nutrias do not build dams like beavers but prefer digging around for tubers, roots, and other food sources. They are also known to tunnel underground, creating burrows that can house large colonies. Nutrias have been introduced in some parts of the world, such as North America, Europe, and Africa.

3. American Mink

American mink
American mink have short-webbed feet and long, slender bodies.

©An inspiration/

The American mink is an often overlooked beaver look-alike, but it’s worth taking a closer look at. This small, semi-aquatic mammal is native to North America and is a member of the mustelid family. American mink share the same habitat choices as beavers, living in marshes, lakes, rivers, and streams. Like beavers, American mink have short-webbed feet and long, slender bodies.

Despite the similarities, the mink differs from its counterpart in a few ways. While beavers have brown or gray fur, minks’ fur comes in various colors, from dark brown or black to orange-brown. Moreover, the American mink has a white chest and belly, contrasting with its darker fur. Additionally, minks’ tails are bushy and furry, while beavers have flat, scaly tails.

The diet of the American mink differs from a beaver’s diet. Whereas beavers are herbivores, minks are strictly carnivores and voracious predators. They often prey on fish, amphibians, birds, rodents, and other small mammals.

4. Capybaras

The largest living rodent in the world: Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)
Capybaras have brown fur, stout bodies, webbed feet, and small rounded ears.


This species is the largest living rodent native to South America. Capybaras are highly social animals that inhabit savannas, dense forests, and areas close to water sources. Like beavers, capybaras have brown fur, stout bodies, webbed feet, and small rounded ears. They also share similar feeding habits and habitats

However, some notable differences set these two animals apart. Capybaras have partially webbed toes, while beavers have fully webbed feet. They are slightly bigger than beavers, growing up to 4.4 feet and weighing 77-146 pounds. Another physical trait distinguishing a capybara from a beaver is its hippo-like head. Moreover, capybaras have longer hind legs and a vestigial tail. The most significant capybara predators are jaguars, ocelots, anacondas, and humans.

5. Groundhogs

groundhog standing on top of burrow
Groundhogs have long, stocky bodies and brown fur.


Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are the largest sciurids in their habitats. They are native to North America and can be found from Alaska down to Georgia. They have long, stocky bodies and brown fur, much like beavers, and are about the same size. Groundhogs’ long front teeth, small ears, and short legs make the resemblance to beavers even more obvious.

However, some things can help you tell them apart. First, groundhogs are much smaller, having a body length of up to around 26 inches. Moreover, they dig burrows rather than build dams, though they may occasionally modify a nearby existing structure. Although they live near water sources, they are not aquatic.

6. River Otters

river otter and pup
River otters are carnivores and eat various fish and invertebrates.


Another beaver look-alike on the list is the river otter. This animal is found throughout the North American continent and belongs to the subfamily Lutrinae in the mustelid family. Like beavers, river otters have small, rounded ears and brown fur. Another common trait between the two is that they both spend most of their time in the water. 

However, river otters have a more distinct, rounded head and can be distinguished from beavers by their smooth fur that looks silvery when wet. Unlike beavers, river otters are carnivores and eat various fish and invertebrates. They are also much more social and playful than beavers, often seen sliding into the water in a game of chase.

7. Quokkas

Quokkas are predominantly herbivores that feed on a range of plants.

©fvanrenterghem / Flickr

The quokka (Setonix brachyurus) is a macropod native to Western Australia. It is one of the smallest members of the macropod family, which includes kangaroos, wallabies, and various rat kangaroos. Quokkas have earned the nickname the world’s happiest animal due to their smiley faces. They also have a reputation for being particularly friendly and approachable.

Quokkas resemble beavers with stout bodies and rounded ears. But you can easily tell them apart from beavers thanks to their shorter, furry tails. Quokkas are predominantly herbivores that feed on a range of plants. They are marsupials that carry their young ones in a pouch until they become independent. Moreover, they are excellent tree climbers!

8. Marmots

Yellow-bellied marmot
Marmots are herbivores with brownish or greyish fur.

© undefined

Marmots are found in Europe, Asia, and North American mountainous regions. They belong to the squirrel family and are larger than typical ground squirrels. Like beavers, marmots have brownish or greyish fur.

Besides that, like beavers, marmots are herbivores and primarily feed on grasses, bark, and other plants. They create underground burrows and can be found living in colonies, making them similar to beavers. However, on close inspection, you’ll notice marmots have enlarged, sharp claws.

Summary of 8 Animals That Look Like Beavers (But Aren’t!)

Here’s a recap of the ways in which the eight animals we looked at are similar and different to beavers.

NumberAnimalSimilarities to BeaversDifferences from Beavers
1Muskrats– Same habitat
– Prefer being alone
– Similar in size and shape when underwater
– Smaller than beavers
– Have a more slender and hairless tail
– Omnivorous
2NutriasWebbed hind feet, long tails, and beaver-like body shape– Coarser fur than beavers
– Thinner and hairless tails
– Dig for food sources
3American Mink– Same habitat
– Short-webbed feet and long, slender bodies
– Minks’ fur comes in various colors
– Tails are bushy and furry
– Carnivorous
4CapybarasSimilar appearance, feeding habits and habitats– Slightly bigger than beavers
– Have a hippo-like head, partially webbed toes, longer hind legs and a vestigial tail
5GroundhogsSimilar appearance, size and fur color– Much smaller than beavers
– Dig burrows rather than build dams
– Are not aquatic
6River Otters– Small, rounded ears and brown fur
– Spend most of their time in the water 
– More distinct, rounded head
– Smooth fur looks silvery when wet
– Carnivorous
– More social
7QuokkasStout bodies and rounded ears– Shorter tails than beavers
– Carry their young in a pouch
– Good tree climbers
8Marmots– Herbivores
– Brownish/greyish fur
– Live in colonies
– Enlarged, sharp claws
– Create underground burrows

The Featured Image

Capybaras are the largest living rodent native to South America.
© BeautifulPicture/

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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