European men once considered beaver as a source for a fashion statement. Trappers considered the beaver as a fur and revenue source. Settlers moving into the Oregon Territory looking for land to farm or graze livestock considered them a pest. All considerations nearly brought the beaver to extinction. It is estimated that prior to the 1600’s there may have been 400 million beaver in North America. Trapping and *market competition dropped that number to 100,000 before conservationists took notice.
The beaver is still trapped today for fur and “castorerum” (found in the perineal glands. It’s used in natural berry and vanilla food flavorings found in some alcoholic beverages, ice creams or candies or some high-end perfumes). But the hard-working rodent is also receiving some overdue recognition and credit for being the backbone of ecosystems. Streams and creeks that have beaver dams hold water longer in an area and extend the water, creating marshy areas which invite native plants. Greener corridors mean wildfire prevention. Extended water sources mean terrific habitat for steelhead and salmon–where beaver have been encouraged to return these fish thrive.
Work for today’s conservationist sometimes means repairing the work of previous conservationists, like restoring a stream that had been straightened. Beavers have been recruited for this work. One way to bring them on board is by building a beaver dam analog (BDA). The District helps landowners obtain funds for building the BDAs (Here is a video on the benefits of a BDA on your property: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eenaS6lo578). Ironically a BDA spreading surface water from an incised stream and making the stream shallower is beneficial to fish and actually lowers the water temperature. Our contact information is below.
The Beaver Coalition (https://www.beavercoalition.org/) is an excellent source of conservation practices and how beavers and humans can live together. One member of the coalition (Sarah Koenigsberg) produced a 2018 documentary about beaver conservation called “Beaver Believers.” (more info: https://www.thebeaverbelievers.com/)
* “In fact, by 1824 the Hudson’s Bay Company was pursuing a strategy of intentionally ‘trapping out’ and eliminating beaver from entire sections of the Oregon interior in order to keep rival businesses from moving into those areas.” Source: Oregon’s First Resource Industry: The Fur Trade & Beaver Ecology in the Beaver State, Historic Oregon Newspapers
Other sources: https://www.opb.org/news/article/meet-the-beaver-10-things-every-oregonian-should-know-about-the-state-animal/
Uses for castorerum: https://www.jotscroll.com/what-brands-use-castoreum-perfumes-food