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Grand Teton National Park Report

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A species that attracted a considerable amount of attention during the early years of American colonization and western exploration was the beaver (Castor canadensis). So important was this species that treaties between European countries specifically identified the trading of its furs (Long, 2000). It is estimated that over 60 million beavers were removed from the North American landscape between the early 1600s through the late 1800s (Long, 2000). By the beginning of the 1900s it is believed that only 10% of the pre-settlement population of beavers remained. Though not extinct, their numbers were radically reduced because of the fur trade and their "destructive" behavior of cutting trees and ponding water that interfered with America's growth. This perception of their detriment to the environment has been dramatically changed, and they are now perceived as ecosystem engineers that assist in creating beneficial habitat and restoring damaged landscapes (Naiman et al., 1988). Thus, it is essential in this revised role, that we know the distribution of the beaver, their habitats, and to determine the best management practices to utilize their benefits to the ecosystem.