As beavers cut down small trees and clear away brush, they create new habitats that are ideal food patches for other animals. Waterfowl use these areas as feeding and nesting grounds. Ponds created by beavers often serve as fish habitat. Occasionally beaver dams may block streams to migrating anadromous fish, like salmon, and at times road culverts may be blocked or other human developments flooded by this industrious animal.
In the past, pelts were so important they were used as a trade medium in place of money. Between 1853 and 1877, the Hudson Bay Company sold almost three million beaver pelts to England. In Alaska today, trappers still harvest these furs. They are highly prized for cold weather coats and hats.
About 1,300 beavers were harvested annually in Alaska between 2003–2009. In that period, an average-priced pelt was valued at about $20. In 2008–2009, the total harvest represented about $17,000 in value. Many trappers don’t sell fur but keep the fur they harvest for personal use.
Beavers are also valued by wildlife watchers. They can become habituated to humans and carry on their normal activities, offering insight into their lives and behaviors. Their abundant signs – dams, fallen trees, lodges, chewed sticks and trails offer accessible wildlife experiences even if the animals themselves are elusive.