Architects of the Forest
While I have only seen a beaver in the wild once or twice, I come across signs of their work nearly every time I venture out in the Adirondacks. From dams and lodges, to trails and canals, beavers definitely leave their mark on a landscape – and what a mark it can be. The largest beaver dam in existence clocks in at just under 3,000 ft long and can be seen from space!
Beavers thrive in areas with ponded waterbodies, where they are able to use the deeper water to hide from predators. However, rather than spending time searching an existing pond, they take matters into their own hands (and teeth) and create one themselves. These dammed waterbodies are not only good for beavers, but also benefit the ecosystem as a whole by creating habitat for other critters, improving drought resistance, and filtering pollutants and debris in the water as it flows through.
Here in the ADKs, beavers were not always so commonly found. Prized for their fur, beavers were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1840s by European colonists looking to cash in on the high demand for pelts. Thankfully, conservation efforts in NY have helped to save the beaver and reestablish their populations; there are now an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 beavers living throughout the Adirondacks. In 1975, New York State as a whole recognized the awesomeness of beavers and designated them as our State Mammal, where they continue to represent the ingenuity and resilience of New Yorkers.
This month’s Conservation Minute was written by Carolyn Koestner, LPLC’s Strategic Conservation Planner and GIS professional.