Beavers Return to Manhattan after near 300-Year Absence

A beaver swimming

By Nick Pace

As Dutch settlers inhabited Manhattan in the 17th century, they discovered an abundance of beavers, which were hunted and trapped for their warm pelts. The popularity of these warm pelts spread throughout Europe and sparked the unsustainable hunting of beavers in downstate New York as Native American trappers tried to keep up with the European’s high demand for these valuable furs to trade for other goods. Eventually beavers were extirpated from the region and beaver trappers were forced north towards the Adirondacks and Canada.

Although Beavers are no longer hunted to the extent that they once were, they have struggled to return to areas around NYC due to urbanization. Because Manhattan’s shoreline is only 5% natural shoreline, there is little space for beavers to return. However, in October of 2017, local birdwatcher and frequent visitor of Sherman Creek Park, Ben Saddock, noticed signs of beaver activity, and was able to snap a photo of tree stumps with teeth markings.

The Sherman Creek beaver marks the first beaver sighting in Manhattan since before the U.S. became a country. Beavers’ return to Manhattan was foreseeable as the beaver population has crept closer over the years. A pair of beavers were seen in the Bronx River in 2007, but it is unknown whether the beaver in Sherman Creek Park is related. Whether they are related or not, it is still a positive sign that wildlife is returning to the region.

Although a beaver has been sighted at Sherman Creek, it does not look like it has settled down there. Ben Saddock, said there were no visible signs of a lodge, and he believes the beaver left for the winter. We excitedly await its return in the spring as more and more animals make Sherman Creek their home.

Sherman Creek used to be an illegal dumping site until NYRP organized a shore cleanup and restored the shoreline. By using native plants and sustainable practices, NYRP has made Sherman Creek a suitable habitat for all kinds of wildlife that once flourished in this region. In addition, NYRP constructed Swindler Cove, the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse, and the Riley-Levin Children’s Garden.