A Conservative member of the Red Chamber has laid an unexpected smackdown on one of Canada's national symbols, by suggesting that it is time for the beaver to head back to the dam.

Senator Nicole Eaton says the beaver is a "dentally defective rat" that owes its current prominence to its former popularity as a source material for fancy hats in days gone by.

While the beaver has been an official emblem of Canada for more than 35 years, Eaton told fellow senators Thursday that it may be a "time for change."

Instead, she is advocating the polar bear as a replacement -- or for the Arctic resident to at least share the honour with the beaver -- and calling on her fellow senators to help promote her initiative.

"The polar bear, with its strength, courage, resourcefulness, and dignity is perfect for the part," Eaton said.

Despite her desire to put the beaver in the background, Eaton said she was reluctant to "speak ill" of the Castor canadensis that forms half the artwork on the Canadian nickel.

Though she also said the day that Canada gave the beaver such symbolic significance was the day "the toothy tyrant received the highest honour ever bestowed on a rodent."

Later in the day, Eaton told CTV's Power Play that if there is enough interest among her colleagues on Parliament Hill, she may put forward a private member's bill proposing that the federal government ditch the beaver for the bear.

The proposal irks Michael Runtz, a natural history professor at Carleton University and a passionate supporter of the beaver as a Canadian emblem.

"How many Canadians have actually seen a polar bear first hand? Beavers are across the country, they're coast to coast," he said Friday on CTV's Power Play.

"And more than that, they are like Canadians. Their demeanour is very pleasant," he added. "Polar bears inspire fear."