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Ungrateful Old Scrooge

While we are careful to specify that no “wild” beavers have been seen on the Bronx River since the end of the 1700s, beavers have nevertheless appeared there from time to time since then.In 1915 one of the star attractions of the Bronx Zoo’s beaver pond was a scruffy character dubbed Old Scrooge.Despite being described as “disreputable, bewhiskered,” and presenting a “villainous appearance,” Old Scrooge was immensely popular with visitors.Part of his appeal was a sympathy factor:Old Scrooge gamboled around on only three legs, having lost one to a steel trap up in the Maine woods.

A three-legged beaver would seemingly not pose a major flight risk, but the point was not explained to Old Scrooge, who kept hearing the call of the wild.After a couple of incidents in which he dug his way out of the beaver pen and made merry with the ducks and giraffes, Old Scrooge finally defied all odds by climbing up and over a wire fence and leaving the Bronx Zoo entirely behind him.

While the Zoo keepers puzzled over Old Scrooge’s latest exploit, reports came in from the neighboring New York Botanical Garden that some strange animal was gnawing on the Garden’s elm trees along the Bronx River.Though it was well over a century at least since they had last been seen on that reach of the river, discerning eyes soon confirmed that the gnawed elms were the work of a beaver, undoubtedly the fugitive Old Scrooge.

Now hot on the trail of their elusive quarry, the Zoo’s beaver bounty hunters set up a stake-out, and after two long sleepless nights nabbed Old Scrooge in his cleverly chosen drain-pipe hideout.“It’s Old Scrooge, all right,” one of them triumphantly proclaimed, and the disabled beaver, termed “ungrateful” by the press for spurning the shelter offered him, was carried back to the Bronx Zoo.

Stephen Paul DeVillo


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The Bronx River Alliance is a coordinated voice for the river that works in partnership to protect, improve and restore the Bronx River corridor so that it can be a healthy ecological, recreational, resource for the communities through which it flows.

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