I was walking on the road with a friend in Franconia, New Hampshire about a month ago and this is what we came across when we hopped down from the bridge:
It was amazing to think that a beaver, (Castor canadensis) was felling trees and hanging out 20 feet from Lafayette Road! Beavers were almost driven to extinction by the demand for their fur and castoruem (an oily secretion which water-proofs their fur, and when mixed with urine, marks their territory, and was used in perfume and as a medicinal remedy as early as the 1600’s. It has also been approved by the FDA as a food additive, usually listed as ‘natural flavoring,’ and is often used to provide vanilla flavor in food, beverages, and cigarettes). Anyway, at the peak of the French and American hudson river trapping years, (the mid 1600’s) approximately 80,000 beavers were killed per annum. This peak was only curbed by their subsequent depletion, at which point trappers moved west.
A few more fun facts about North American Beavers:
•They are the largest rodent in North America, and the third largest in the world (the South American Capybara is first, and the Eurasian beaver second)
•Beavers are mainly active at night
•Their lodges provide nesting sites for Trumpeter Swans and Canada Geese
•Their decline has been linked to the decline of Salmon, whose eggs and immature fish rely on the deep pools created by beaver dams for protection and low-current habitat as they develop
•The beaver in the Lady and the Tramp is one of my all time favorite cartoon characters (see below)