Prior to 1996, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) managed the beaver population through education, research, and regulated trapping. Because of the lack of natural predators on beavers, the main method DFW used to manage the beaver population was through regulated harvest by licensed trappers. In 1994, DFW started conducting surveys of beaver colony densities in three study areas within Massachusetts. One purpose of these surveys was to gather data that would help MDFW estimate the size of the beaver population within its current range These surveys also enabled DFW to collect accurate information on current active colony densities, which not only would aid DFW in monitoring the population, but consequently would assist DFW in making decisions on how best to manage the beaver population at levels compatible with suitable habitat and public acceptance. In 1996, the voters of Massachusetts passed a ballot referendum known as "Question One". This referendum prohibited or restricted (by permit only) the use of many types of traps, which had been used by researchers and licensed trappers.
After Question One was enacted, statewide harvests dropped from 1,136 beaver, in the 1995-1996 season, to 98 in the 1997-1998 season, and the average annual harvest has been 157% below pre-1996 averages. Consequently, the beaver population experienced extreme growth from 24,000 in 1996 to some 70,000 five years later. In response to increasing conflicts between beaver and people, the Massachusetts Legislature modified Question One in 2000 and gave the local Boards of Health authority to issue emergency permits that allow the use of restricted traps and trapping outside the regulated trapping season.