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  • Writer's pictureFernando Ortiz

Sherman the Beaver

Sherman, Jose & Justin: NYC's growing beaver colony.

A beaver was spotted hanging around in Swindler Cove in Uptown Manhattan today by the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) staff. They named the beaver #Sherman- I am assuming after Sherman Creek where the beaver has made its new home. Now, you might not get very excited to hear about beavers, but this was the highlight of my day! If you haven't noticed, beavers are part of the official seal and flag of New York City and the official state animal- there is a reason why. #Beavers are a major part of New York City's identity, back when Henry Hudson sailed through the Hudson he noted the abundant beaver population that stirred Dutch traders and colonist to come to New York City, which they called New Amsterdam. Fur trading especially beaver pelts was a very lucrative business in Europe and so the Dutch quickly saw an opportunity here in the area to exploit the high beaver population. In essence, beavers attracted the Dutch who established a fort and trading post in the area and well the rest is history as they say.

Now, living in New York City I have never seen a wild beaver swimming along any river here in the city and that's because the beaver population was critically declined in the early 1800's due to trapping, fur trading, deforestation, loss of habitats and water pollution. In 2007, the first beaver sighting occurred in the Bronx River and was named #Jose after Jose Serrano, U.S Representative of the Bronx who donated $15 million of federal funds towards cleanup efforts in the Bronx River. The river was a dumping ground and had become highly contaminated and polluted and with federal funds and the efforts of organizations like the Bronx River Alliance who worked to restore the river, the Bronx River once again become a healthy, habitable place.

A second beaver was later spotted in the Bronx River in 2010 alongside Jose and this beaver was named #Justin in honor of Justin Bieber after a survey went around to give a name to the second Bronx beaver. Environmentalist like myself and biologist became super excited- due to the restoration of the Bronx River, beavers were returning to the area and the possibility of a colony of wild beavers in NYC was becoming a reality.

Like the Bronx River, Sherman Creek in Uptown Manhattan is a natural waterway that over time has been reduced and contaminated. Illegal dumping and industrial pollution highly contaminated the creek and in 1996 NYRP took to restore the creek and surrounding landscapes to establish a public park in collaboration with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and the NYC Department of Transportation. Swindler Cove and Sherman Creek Park officially opened in 2003 to the public with a clean creek, a boathouse, a pond home to turtles, ducks and geese, a community garden and a restored wetland among other features.

Now adding to the success of the park is a new resident- #Sherman the Beaver. #Beavers have tons of ecological benefits- they are known as a keystone species and as natural engineers and architects. Some of the ecological benefits that #beavers and their dam building provide include; decrease in floods, recharging of aquifers, removal of ground pollutants, drought protection, decrease in erosion, build-up of soil nutrients and they provide habitats and food for other species such as fish, turtles, birds and frogs.

The appearance of #Sherman excites me profoundly because it is one of the most visual and best sustainability and success metric to river restoration efforts. #Sherman, #Jose and #Justin prove that by remediation of our natural environments, we can bring back biodiversity to our city. They demonstrate that our rivers are becoming healthier and that our work in restoring the environment is not in vain. Hopefully over time, we will continue to see a growth in #beaver population here in our city.

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