Image: Beaver at park
Detroit Edison via AP
The beaver spotted along the Detroit River was photographed with a camera that is triggered by motion.
updated 2/16/2009 12:26:11 PM ET 2009-02-16T17:26:11

Wildlife officials are celebrating the sighting of a beaver in the Detroit River for the first time in decades, signaling that efforts to clean up the waterway are paying off.

The Detroit Free Press reports that a beaver lodge has been discovered in an intake canal at a Detroit Edison riverfront plant. Officials believe the beaver spotted by the utility's motion-sensitive camera marks the animal's return to the river for the first time in at least 75 years.

Photos and video were taken in November, but Detroit Edison didn't want to release them until they could ensure the animal's safety.

John Hartig, Detroit River refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the cleanup along the river has also brought back sturgeons, peregrine falcons and other species.

"It's part of that larger story of ecological recovery," Hartig said. "If it's cleaner for them, it's cleaner for us, too."

Beaver trapping in the late 1700s was instrumental in the founding of Detroit, but the animals were soon wiped out.

"By the 1800s, there were low levels of them and by 1930 they were virtually gone," Hartig said. "So we haven't seen one for an awfully long time around here."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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