Since 1975, New York has recognized the beaver as the state animal of New York. The importance of the state animal of New York to the region stems from the history the area played in attracting explorers to the New World. While almost extinct in the region at one point, the state was able to reintroduce the beaver and offer it protection from future commercial harvesting.
Beavers can grow to a substantial size, weighing in at about 40 pounds (approximately 18 kg) on average. Larger beavers can surpass that weight, and approach a weight of 50 pounds (approximately 22.5 kg). Beavers are typically three to four feet in length, and are considered a rodent.
The beaver has the capacity to reconfigure the surrounding habitat and influence the local ecological balance. Their constant desire for a water-filled environment can lead to both negative and positive consequences on the surrounding environment. These consequences have a ripple effect in both the animal and human worlds.
Consequences of the popular beaver activity of dam building include the formation of new bodies of water and changes to the flow of water resulting in localized flooding. The creation of dams does, however, create additional habitats for fish and various mammals, such as deer. This can provide new water sources and breeding areas for these members of the animal kingdom.
Beaver pelt trade spurred development of the area of the New World now known as New York. Explorers came to the area to take advantage of opportunities for trade and wealth. English and Dutch trading posts sprung up around the region which connected Native Americans with fur traders looking to purchase the pelts of the future state animal of New York. These traders would then sell the pelts in Europe where they were used to make hats and other garments.
Thanks to the harvesting of beavers, the state animal of New York almost became extinct in the area. It was estimated that beavers numbered more than 60 million at one point before harvesting and commercial interests drove the numbers down. Eventually, beavers found a home again in the Adirondacks and became protected from commercial harvests. This protection helped the numbers of beavers surge again in New York.
Beyond the beaver as the state animal of New York, the state also has other official state symbols. This includes a state bird, the bluebird and a state fish, the brook trout, a popular fish among fishermen. Other state symbols of New York include the ladybug as the state insect and the bay scallop as the state mollusk.