Dec 28 2015
This month I hiked the Wetlands Trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County where I found many small trees chopped down next to Traverse Creek lake. Across the water, cut treetops and shrubs lay in a messy half-submerged brush pile against the opposite shore.
The stumps don’t show the straight-edge cut of human activity. If you look closely you see tooth marks. Big incisors were at work.
Beavers (Castor canadensis) are obviously here now, but that wasn’t always the case.
When Beaver County was named for the Beaver River in 1800, their namesake was already hard to find. The North American beaver population was 100 to 400 million before Europeans arrived to trap them but 300 years of over-hunting took its toll. According to the PA Game Commission, “the last few beavers known to naturally exist in Pennsylvania were killed in Elk, Cameron, and Centre counties between 1850 and 1865.”
Game laws and reintroduction programs have brought beavers back to 10% of their former population. Today there are 10 to 15 million beavers in North America.
In Pennsylvania one indication of the beavers’ success is the number of complaints they generate, mostly about flooding including plugged culverts and flooded roads. A lot of complaints often means there are a lot of beavers.
Where were the most complaints in 2008 in southwestern Pennsylvania?
In Beaver County.
(photos by Kate St. John)