NEW YORK — The Mandarin duck — aka the Hot Duck — who landed in Central Park and captivated social media last year has been seen little as of late.
In its absence, could a beaver that was seen Monday splashing in the Hudson River off the Upper West Side become New York City’s next animal darling?
Centuries ago, the furry rodents ran rampant in and around the region, generating immense wealth for those who dealt in pelts.
But greed and development — what could be more New York? — virtually eliminated the animals from the state. And even when their population later rebounded, the creatures never returned to being regular habitants of the city.
“This just seemed so out of place,” said Ralph Stone, 53, who saw the beaver paddling near West 70th Street around 10 a.m. and reported it to West Side Rag.
The sighting was as unusual as it seemed, several experts said. While North American beavers are thriving in the state, they are rarely seen in New York City, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
In 2007, the sighting of a beaver on the Bronx River near the Bronx Zoo was believed to be the first in the city in 200 years.
The zoo’s general curator and associate director, Patrick R. Thomas, said that neither that beaver, which biologists named José, nor others had been spotted near the zoo since then.
Elizabeth Alter, a biology professor at York College of the City University of New York, said that Monday’s sighting confirmed that decades of concerted conservation and cleanup efforts along the Hudson River were working.
“We’re seeing in general that aquatic wildlife sightings in New York are becoming more and more common as the waterways get healthier,” Alter said, pointing to recent whale, dolphin and seal sightings in the area.
Both Alter and Thomas said there was no obvious place for beavers to make a home on the Hudson in New York City, where the shoreline was highly developed and they lack a clear source of food.
George Jackman, a habitat restoration manager for Riverkeeper, an environmental group, said that the Hudson’s salinity and boat traffic made it a dangerous environment for a beaver. He said it was likely that the beaver had gotten lost.
“This is not a hospitable habitat to him,” Jackman said.