1 minute read

Beavers

Beavers And The Fur Trade

The pelts of American beavers are valuable in the fur trade and are largely used in making coats and hats. During the first several centuries of the European colonization of North America, beaver pelts were one of the most important natural resources to be exported from the northern regions of that continent. The most important markets were in Europe, where the pelts were used to make gentlemen's hats, also known as "beavers." In fact, most of the initial exploration and settlement of the interior of North America was undertaken by fur traders, and these intrepid men were most enthusiastically searching for beaver pelts. For many years in vast regions of North America, beaver pelts were the measure of wealth, and An American beaver (Castor canadensis.) dragging a willow branch over his dam in Denali National Park, Alaska. Photograph by Ron Sanford. Stock Market. Reproduced by permission. were even a common unit of currency. In view of the great importance of the beaver in the early colonial history of Canada, this animal has become a national symbol of that country. However, beavers were similarly important in the northeastern and central United States.

The extraordinary overharvesting of beavers for their pelts caused great reductions in the abundance of these animals, and they were widely extirpated from much of their original range in North America. Moreover, the American beaver will not breed in captivity, so fur-farming is not possible. Fortunately, the implementation of conservation measures after about the 1940s has allowed a substantial rebound in the populations of American beavers. These animals are now re-occupying much of their former range, as long as the habitat has remained suitable for their purposes. Beavers are sometimes hunted for meat, although their use in this way is usually secondary to the taking of their pelts.

Beavers can be viewed as a nuisance, their constructions flooding roads, culverts, railroads, lawns, and agricultural land. Beavers also may cut down valuable ornamental trees in some places where they are living in proximity to humans. As a result, many states and provinces will live-trap problem beavers for relocation to less built-up areas.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ballistic galvanometer to Big–bang theoryBeavers - The American Beaver, Beavers And The Fur Trade, The Eurasian Beaver, The Mountain Beaver