A North American beaver was discovered in Orient last Tuesday morning, the first reported beaver sighting on Long Island in almost a decade.
Two New York State Department of Transportation employees found the dead beaver near the intersection of Narrow River Road and Route 25 around 9 a.m. while on patrol. They said the sighting was unusual; they had never seen beavers in the area.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said they responded to the report of a suspected beaver carcass last Wednesday. DEC wildlife staff confirmed that the carcass was a male beaver, weighing 15.7 kilograms. The spokesperson said it is suspected that the beaver swam to Orient Point from Connecticut.
Beavers live a semi-aquatic lifestyle, building dens in watery habitats like freshwater ponds, lakes, rivers, marshes and swamps. They are strong swimmers, traveling at speeds of up to 5 mph and can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes at a time, according to National Geographic. Beavers have keen senses of hearing, smell and touch, and their nostrils and ears are closable. They also have transparent eye membranes that function much like goggles.
While there is no known breeding population of beavers on Long Island, there have been some fairly recent sightings which mark the first in a century, according to The New York Times.
In 2003, a beaver was discovered on Plum Island, and four years later, a dam was found blocking the mouth of Ely Brook in East Hampton, according to the East Hampton Star. Most recently, in 2009, the Times wrote about two carpenters who were working near Napeague Harbor and reported seeing a beaver scuttle across a path — which was then confirmed when the beaver took refuge in Montauk’s Fresh Pond.
According to the DEC, it is believed that the beaver population was eradicated on Long Island following heavy settlement and development during the Colonial era. Despite reports, the DEC has only confirmed the existence of one beaver on Long Island from 2008-2011 in East Hampton.
The dead beaver spotted in Orient last Tuesday is, according to the DEC, undergoing analysis by a state-contracted pathologist to confirm cause of death. It is suspected that after making it to shore, the beaver made its way into the road and was hit by a vehicle. The pathologist will examine the carcass to determine its age and health before death, after which they will determine safe disposal at an approval facility, according to the DEC.
“It made it all the way from Connecticut to out here, only to get killed on the road,” said one of the DOT employees who found the beaver. “It’s a shame.”
Editor’s Note: The photo on our homepage and Facebook page is not of the beaver spotted in Orient. Because of the way the beaver appears to have died, we opted not to share its photo online. A small black and white image of the beaver does appear on page 21 of this week’s print edition.