Posts Tagged ‘Beaver’

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Short History of the Moose River Plains

The Moose River Plains Wild Forest, sitting between Route 28 and the West Canada Lake Wilderness in Hamilton and Herkimer counties, is a bit of an Adirondack political and natural history wonder.

The gravelly, flat, grassy “plains” of the Moose and Red Rivers are a significant contrast to the rest of the Adirondack Park and one of it’s more unique (and popular) features. Although it’s hard to know for sure, indications from various studies and permit requests suggest that about 50,000 people use the plains each year (not including the some 500 campsites bordering the area, and the incidental use generated by those in the hamlets of Inlet, Raquette Lake and Indian Lake). “The Plains,” as the area is known, was also the site of one of the region’s legendary environmental conservation fights of the last 100 years. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

State Politics and New York’s Beavers

Like the Adirondack forest itself, New York’s beaver population had been harvested almost to the point of extinction before Albany took steps to revive it. It’s especially apt, then, that the coalition of groups lobbying to rescue the state’s Environmental Protection Fund from the Governor’s budget cuts has chosen the beaver to be its “spokesman” for the cause.

The beaver, of course, is the official animal of New York State.

A few years ago, I wrote an editorial for the Lake George Mirror about the political history of the state’s official animal. (The level of malfeasance among local governments must have been at an all-time low that week.)

I reproduce it here:

When government throws money at a problem, on occasion results ensue. Just not the results government intended.

For the second spring in a row, the state Department of Environmental Conservation extended the trapping season for beavers. As farmers and homeowners know, New York has too many beavers. Less than a century ago, however, the beaver was virtually extinct in New York State, and the legislature voted to finance a program to repatriate them to the Adirondacks. Unlike programs to restock the elk and the moose, this one worked.

In the August 1904 issue of ‘Field & Stream,’ Harry V. Radford reported, “Another measure which the writer caused to be introduced in the last Legislature, and which has just become a law through the Governor’s approval, is what has been known as the Beaver Restoration Bill. It carries an appropriation of $500, with which the Forest Fish and Game Commission is authorized to purchase wild beaver and liberate them in the Adirondacks.”

Radford was the individual most responsible for a program begun three years earlier to restock the Adirondacks with moose. Shortly after his victory on behalf of the beaver, he disappeared, reportedly in the Arctic, killed by his eskimo guides.

The Beaver, however, thrived. In 1905, three pairs were liberated, two in Big Moose Lake, which they quickly abandoned for a river twenty miles to the northeast. That same year, the Fish and Game Commission reported that the remnants of an original colony had been discovered in the marshy waters northwest of Upper Saranac Lake. The combined population of natives and transplants was roughly Forty. By 1914, that population had grown to 1,500 or even 2,000. The 1914 Conservation Commission report trumpeted: “The Adirondacks today are again entitled to their old Iroquois name, for they are rapidly becoming the country of the Beaver.”

The beaver was so successful in re-establishing himself in New York State that in 1975 he became the official state animal. Oregon objected, asserting that it had already claimed the beaver for itself. The editor of The Conservationist Magazine tried to soothe bad tempers on both sides by saying “Thanks to conservation there are enough beavers to provide state mammals for both states.” More than enough, apparently.

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Photo of beaver from Lake George Mirror files.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Leg-Hold Traps Criticized: UPDATED

Wildlife rehabilitators who helped rescue a bald eagle last week say trappers and state regulators should reconsider use of leg-hold traps.

This bald eagle became ensnared near Moffits Beach, on Sacandaga Lake in Hamilton County, but was able to fly off with the trap still attached. The five-foot-long chain it was dragging then snagged in the branch of a tree 16 feet above the ground. The bird was discovered by the trapper on December 6 hanging upside down.

The trapper contacted the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office, which called Lake Pleasant–based Forest Ranger Thomas Eakin, who used a pole to bring the bird safely to the ground. He then wrapped the bird in cargo netting from his pickup truck and kept it warm until wildlife rehabilitator Wendy Hall, of the Wilmington refuge Adirondack Wildlife, arrived. She transported the eagle to two Saratoga-based North Country Wild Care rehabbers.

Hall said that the eagle is perching and appears to be mending well from superficial wounds. She thinks its chances of release back into the wild are high. However, the prospects of a red-tailed hawk whose leg was severed this fall in a leg-hold trap in Brushton are not as good. Most raptors brought to wildlife rehabilitators have been hit by cars, Hall said, and most cannot be released. Many captives then become part of educational programs.

The trapper broke no rules and acted responsibly by reporting the injured eagle, those involved in the rescue said. But these two birds prompted Hall to write an essay, “What’s wrong with leg-hold traps?”, for her Web site, adirondackwildlife.org. She respects hunters and says they are wildlife rehabilitators’ best allies. “However, we will never understand why New York continues to permit the use of leghold traps for wildlife. They banned the use of snares and toothed leghold traps, but this does not really address the two main problems with the non-toothed clamp traps which are still legal in New York.

“The first problem is that any wildlife so trapped is going to suffer unimaginable agony, and in many documented cases, the animal will chew off its own leg to effect its escape. These traps do not legally need to be checked by the trapper more than once every 24 hours, which means the captive animal not only may suffer for long periods, but runs the additional risk of drawing in predators attracted by the noise of the creature’s struggles, and who will naturally take advantage of the creature’s inability to flee. Some folks say that’s nature. We call it interference.”

Others say the problem is not the traps themselves. There is movement to change the regulation to prohibit use of “exposed” bait, which can be seen from the air by raptors, which are sight hunters. The Moffits trap was baited with a beaver carcass with the intention of trapping a coyote. Pelts are a source of income for many Adirondackers.

Photograph by Thomas Eakin, NYS DEC


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Preparing for Winter Animal Tracking

As we sit and wait for the snow to start (and stay), I find myself chomping at the bit, anticipating another season of animal tracking. For some people winter means skiing, while other folks get excited about winter birding. For me, though, winter means we finally have obvious signs that we are not alone, that we share the Park with various animals that mostly escape our notice the rest of the year: martens and fishers, otters and mink, foxes and hares, porcupines and grouse.

Sure, there are people who see these animals during the rest of the year. We all hear the coyotes yipping and howling at dusk. Deer, well, deer and turkeys are about as common as fleas on a dog these days: anyone who’s driven through the Park has likely seen either, or both, along the side of the road. Paddlers routinely report having watched otters at play. Squirrels abound in every yard and on every tree in the forest. The woods and wetlands are full of bird songs and the calls of frogs and insects. By late summer beaver activity is painfully obvious. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

What’s in a Name? Adirondack Waterbody Trivia

Many of our region’s lakes and ponds share the same name—Moose, Long, and Black come to mind as some overused ones. While our rivers have generally fared better, there are still many examples of name-sharing. Here’s some name-related trivia to help get through the non-paddling months.

Several rivers share the same name. There are two Deers (one in Franklin County and another near the Tug Hill Plateau), two rivers named The Branch (one a tributary of the Schroon and the other a small tributary of the Boquet), two Littles (one flows into the East Branch Oswegatchie and the other into the Grass near Canton); and two Blacks (the major river draining the western Adirondacks and Tug Hill Plateau, plus a small one flowing into the Boquet).

In a tie for 1st place we have the Salmon and the Indian, each with three. The three Salmons flow east into Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, north through Malone into the St. Lawrence River, and west from the Tug Hill Plateau into Lake Ontario. The three Indians include the major stream that flows into the Hudson, another flowing north into the South Branch Moose, and another north of the Beaver near Natural Bridge. There are way too many creeks/brooks with the same name to catalog them—my guess is that Alder is the most popular name.

There are some river-pairs that sound like they should flow into one another though never do—the Great Chazy/Little Chazy and the Ausable/Little Ausable. Some rivers have East, West, and Middle Branches (Sacandaga, St. Regis, Oswegatchie) while others have North, South, and Middle Branches (Grass, Moose). In a class by itself, the Boquet has South and North Forks near its headwaters, and a North Branch further downstream. In a different vein, we have the South Branch Grass claiming a 1st and 2nd Brook, only to be outdone by the Independence, which claims 1st through 5th Creeks.

There are several rivers with multiple tributaries of the same name: The Cold has two Moose Pond Outlets, each from a different Moose Pond—one west of Duck Hole, and one near Shattuck Clearing. The South Branch Moose has two Otter Creeks, one in the Moose Plains and the other in Adirondack League Club lands. The East Branch Oswegatchie has two Skate Creeks, one flowing into Cranberry Lake and another into the Flat Rock impoundment. The Raquette has three (!) Dead Creeks, one near Piercefield and two flowing into the Blake Falls and South Colton Reservoirs. The Saranac has two Fish Creeks (one near the campground of the same name and the other flowing into Lower Saranac Lake) and also has two Cold Brooks (one near the lower lock and the other near Bloomingdale). If we stretch things a bit, we could add the Cold Brook that flows into the North Branch Saranac near Riverview. As usual, there are some near misses—Cold Brook and Little Cold Brook flow into Carry Falls Reservoir (Raquette) and the East Branch St. Regis has both a Big Cold Brook and a Little Cold Brook.

Finally, rivers almost always have streams and brooks as tributaries. Is there a situation when this is reversed and a brook has a river as a tributary? You bet. Quebec Brook (itself a tributary of the Middle Branch St. Regis) claims the Onion River as a tributary. Go figure.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adirondack Mammals; The Whirlwind Tour

There are 54 species of mammals in the Adirondacks, and the Adirondack Ecological Center’s Charlotte Demers offers a “whirlwind tour.” Here are the highlights:

Marsupials – the possum. The Adirondacks is in the upper range of the possum, so you often find them with signs of frostbite, particularly their ears. Amazingly they give birth just 12 1/2 days after mating.

Shrews and Moles – There are six different species of what are called “red tooth shrews”. They have an average life span of just a year and eat almost continuously. Our shrews have a toxin in their saliva which paralyzes it’s prey. The pygmy shrew weighs less then a dime making it (arguably) the smallest mammal in the world. The water shrew dives (mostly in streams) for its prey, including frogs and fish. They are often caught in minnow traps. We have two moles – hairy tail (the most common) and the star nose (uglier and aquatic). » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Extinction: A Short History of Adirondack Beaver

We got a great laugh around the house here a couple weeks ago when my neighbor Mike — a guy who’s full of Adirondack lore — began extolling the virtues of eating Adirondack beaver. A quick search turned up actual beaver recipes. It turns out, unlike deer which are hung in woodsheds, barns and garages all over the North Country during hunting season, beaver needs to be soaked overnight in salt water to remove the blood from the meat — trapped beaver don’t bleed out.

So much discussion of beaver got me thinking about the history of Castor canadensis — North America’s largest rodent and the second largest in the world — which was driven to near extinction in the Adirondacks around the turn of the last century, but whose reintroduction was astoundingly successful. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

1800s Adirondack Natural History Survey Online

The mid-1800s Natural History Survey of New York has been posted online at the New York State Library here. According to a recent note from the Library’s staff:

The Natural History Survey of New York, undertaken in the mid-1800s, covered zoology, flora, mineralogy, geology, agriculture and paleontology. The NYS Library has digitized the first three components of the survey so far. » Continue Reading.