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Word of the Week: Castoreum
January 29, 2021 by Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Castoreum [ka-STAWR-ee-uhm] (noun): An anal secretion beavers use to mark their territories. It also happens to smell like vanilla!

Castoreum comes from the beaver's castor sac, located between the pelvis and base of the tail. Castoreum secretions contain about 24 different molecules, some of which act as beaver pheromone. Beavers use castoreum in combination with urine in order to scent mark their territory.

Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum often contains other anal secretions and, of course, urine but the compound itself is non-toxic. This is why it has long been used in medicine, perfumery, and in food. In fact, the popularity of castoreum in some parts of the world has contributed to some serious population declines for beavers.

Late in the fall and early in the winter, we were so excited to see some beaver evidence on the trees down by Grenadier Pond! Their favourite snacks are fast-growing hardwoods, and in High Park their go-to is the willow.

On your next winter visit to High Park, keep an eye out for beavers, their cozy home, or beaver chews on the trees at Grenadier Pond!

FUN FACT: A beaver’s teeth never stop growing! Chewing on tree trunks and branches helps keep their teeth from getting too long.

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