Beaver spotted in Hudson River off Manhattan

Ralph Stone was out walking his dog Hunter on the Hudson River around West 70th Street on the Upper West Side Monday morning when he spotted something unusual.

"It was right around 10 a.m., I noticed something in the water, I couldn't tell if it was a log or something else," Stone said. "As I got closer I realized it was an animal."

What he saw was none other than a beaver.

"I thought it had to be pretty unusual because I've never seen a beaver, and I'm in the park a fair amount," he said.

The sighting, which he first shared with the neighborhood blog West Side Rag, was in fact a very rare one.

"In the lower part of the estuary, especially on the West Side of Manhattan, it's exceedingly unusual, it's extraordinary," said George Jackman, PHD, of the environmental group Riverkeeper.

Jackman says it's likely the beaver got lost, and perhaps washed in with heavy flood waters from the Sawmill River further north, where beavers are more common.

"Beavers are normally found in fresh water creeks and tributaries of the Hudson, but not in the main stem," he said.

That wasn't always the case. Centuries ago beavers were rampant in and around New York City. The mammals attracted European settlers in the 1600s who were eager to cash in on the animals' pelts. But over-trapping and the loss of habitat eventually decimated the local population. 

According to the New York City government website, a beaver spotted in the Bronx River in 2007 was thought to be the first beaver sighting in the city in more than 200 years.

The beaver's rich history in New York State is reflected in the fact that it's the official state mammal, and that there are two beavers in the emblem of the city flag.

The reason they're so rare around Manhattan now, says Jackman, is that the saltiness and busyness of the River makes it unsafe.

"Where he is, he's in significant danger from sodium poisoning and boat strikes," Jackman said of the beaver.

Riverkeeper says if they can find that beaver they will try to rescue and relocate it and rehabilitate it if needed.

The Department or Environmental Conservation says the state's beaver population is in fact thriving away from Manhattan and other parts of the city. Though the DEC says more have appeared and taken residence on Staten Island.