The Damdest Thing


If you see the world through green-colored glasses, things can look pretty blue sometimes, so it’s always a joy to hear about that most rare, most hopeful event:  the true eco-victory.  One of New York's greater triumphs—the cleaning-up of the previously mucky Bronx River—was marked just a couple of days ago by the appearance of… a beaver.  The beaver, incase high school biology class is a little fuzzy for you, too, is a semi-aquatic, dam-building, tail-slapping rodent, and it hasn’t been spotted in New York City for roughly 200 years.

Some biologists and New York City residents have suspected since last fall that a beaver was stealthily building a home in the Bronx River, but it wasn’t until this Wednesday that biologists actually caught him on videotape.  He was swimming upriver and looking for more material with which to insulate his home.

The beaver in question has been nicknamed José, after United States Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx.  Serrano has, according to an article in today’s New York Times, “directed $15 million in federal funds toward the river’s rebirth.”

Patrick Thomas, Bronx Zoo curator of mammals, said José probably trekked out to the Bronx from a rural area like Westchester County, and that he seemed to be a male looking for a mate (a tad late for Valentines’ Day, José).  He said that it would be interesting to see if a mate had accompanied José, or whether one would come down and help start a new beaver community, the likes of which New York City hasn’t seen since Times Square was farmland.

Beaver History 101, courtesy of the Times:

The North American beaver vanished from New York City in the early 1800s as a result of trapping, fur trading, and deforestation. Beavers helped speed Manhattan’s development by attracting fur traders who were eager to feed huge demands for their pelts in Europe. To this day, beavers remain tightly linked to New York’s identity.  Images of the beaver are on the official seal and flag of New York City. It is the official state animal of New York State, and a Beaver Street is between Broadway and Wall Street in Lower Manhattan.

To which we’ll add that the beaver has been typically characterized in fiction as good-humored and industrious.  So José’s a workaholic, we’ll give him that, but he’ll have to lose the good humor if he wants to pass for a real New Yorker.

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