The North American beaver is the largest rodent in North America. Beavers are mostly nocturnal, and can spend up to 15 minutes underwater at a time. This comes in handy when they build their dams, which they use as a safe hiding place to escape from predators and raise their young. Beaver dams provide important habitat for numerous other species and help reduce soil erosion and prevent flooding. The first European settlers in northeastern North America remarked on the unique quality of beaver fur, and subsequently a massive fur industry formed which supported the early economy of the European colonies in America. In the early 1600s as many as 80,000 beavers were trapped in New York alone, eventually driving beavers nearly to extinction. Today, after decades of conservation efforts, beaver numbers are recovering. In 2007, a single beaver moved into the Bronx River, the first beaver to be seen in New York City in 200 years. José the beaver, named after Congressman José Serrano from the Bronx, lived alone for a few years until he was joined by a second beaver in 2010, named Justin. José can be seen from time to time
in the portion of the Bronx River that flows through the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. Follow José the Beaver here!