Before Europeans settled in North America, millions of beavers lived harmoniously with all the creatures of the taiga. They built dams out of trees that ultimately flooded marshes, tamed rapids, and cleared areas, which allowed aspen and birch trees to flourish. Unfortunately, by the early 1600s beaver pelts hit the trading market. Beaver pelts were highly valued by European hat makers and by fashion followers alike. Only 150 years after Native Americans began trading pelts for manufactured goods in the 1600's, beavers were hunted to near extinction. Today, limits on trapping beavers have been imposed on hunters. Despite these laws, it is predicted that beaver numbers will never return to their original height.
Wood bison also became a target for European hunters in the 1800's. They were valued for their dark, shaggy fur and sometimes for their fresh meat. Populations were devastated by hunters during this time, and it was not until 1922 that the Canadian government interposed. The Canadian government set aside a huge area of northern land as Wood Buffalo National Park. Today, more than 15, 000 wood bison live in the park. Other endangered creatures, such as the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and America's rarest bird, the whooping crane, also thrive in the park.
The Russian taiga is home to the endangered Siberian crane. They are threatened by pollution that destroys the marshes in the taiga which serves as their only nesting ground. They are also periodically shot by careless hunters.
Another endangered animal is the majestic Amur, or the Siberian tiger. The Siberian tiger is the worlds largest feline and resides in the taiga in far eastern Russia. Its meat, along with its luxurious fur, is highly prized in Korea and Japan. Although the poaching of Siberian tigers is illegal, the Russian people are so poor that any measure is taken by poachers to capture even one of these magnificent tigers. The number of Siberian tigers has dwindled to only 250 to 450 remaining in the world. Unless strict measures are taken to preserve these animals they may disappear forever in a few short years.