Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Dan Flores

Commitee Members

Jeffrey Wiltse, Paul Krausman


Adirondacks, beavers, coyotes, moose, restoration, rewilding, wolves


University of Montana


This project examines the restoration histories of beavers (Castor canadensis), moose (Alces alces americana), and wild canines (Canis spp.) within the Adirondack Highlands of northern New York. Devastated by the depredations of nineteenth century woodsmen, the populations of these large mammals rebounded during the twentieth century. Numbering fewer than ten in 1895, the Adirondacks’ remnant beaver population recolonized the region’s lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers over the next twenty-five years, assisted by the presence of prime habitat, a state-enforced moratorium on beaver trapping, and timely reinforcements. Hunters shot the last of the Adirondacks’ moose near Raquette Lake in 1861. Moose began returning naturally to the region during the second half of the twentieth century, dispersing into the Adirondack Highlands from the resurgent woodlands of Vermont. More than four hundred now inhabit northern New York. While the Adirondacks’ wolves outlasted the region’s moose, bounty-hunters had successfully eliminated canine predators by the early 1890s. But in the next four decades rapidly expanding coyote populations hybridized with wolves as they extended their range eastward around the Great Lakes. Capable of traveling through regions largely impermeable to wolves, coyote hybrids served as hardy vessels of wolf genetic material, interjecting wolf DNA from Canada back into the Adirondack Highlands. The entry and continued evolution of wolf-coyote hybrids within the Adirondack ecosystem thus represents a genetic, if not a physical, restoration. These unique restoration histories together illustrate the considerable resilience of the Adirondack ecosystem and its large mammal species, while providing valuable context for future rewilding efforts within the Northeastern woodlands.



© Copyright 2008 Peter Aagaard