Beavers in Massachusetts
The beaver (Castor canadensis) is a valuable component of Massachusetts' fauna. Beavers have played an active role in New England's ecology for thousands of years. Not long ago the beaver was absent from the state. In fact, it was absent from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. Intensive unregulated hunting and trapping, combined with deforestation to clear land for agriculture, led to the disappearance of beaver habitat and the beaver. In the early 1900's, forested habitat started to recover when many farmers abandoned their farms in order to take jobs in cities or to start new farms in the more fertile Midwestern United States. With the forests able to retake the landscape, the beaver was able to return. In 1928, beaver were found in West Stockbridge. This was the first recorded occurrence of beaver in the state since 1750! The return of beaver was greeted with enthusiasm by the public and efforts to restore a beaver population were undertaken. Specific actions taken included the acquisition of three additional beaver from New York which were released in Lenox in 1932. In 1946 there were some 300 beavers in 45 colonies all located west of the Connecticut River. By 1951 the beaver population was such that the legislature authorized the establishment of a beaver trapping season. Consequently, in 1952 regulations were put in place to allow the regulated harvest of beaver. The regulations were designed conservatively to insure the perpetuation and continued growth of the beaver population.