How to Deal With Beavers

10 July 2014 Around The Property
Beaver Eats Jack Pine at Cottage

Here are some great tips on how to prevent beavers from harvesting the trees on your cottage property.

Ways to stop a beaver from cutting down the cottage trees

The beaver is the iconic image of the great Canadian wilderness and almost every cottage community has a resident beaver lodge. While we enjoy watching beavers as they swim across the lake or diligently work on their homes, the critters can cause some grief when they decide to harvest trees from the cottage property.

Beaver populations are carefully controlled in many states and provinces. In fact, the Ontario MNR requires trappers to fulfill at least 75 per cent of their beaver quotas. Keeping the beaver population in check reduces the risk of diseases, such as tularemia, from spreading across beaver colonies. It also helps prevent widespread flooding caused by beaver dams.

But what can a cottage owner do if the resident beaver has taken a liking to his precious trees?

Wire Fence Cylinders
The best thing to do is buy some heavy-gauge wire fencing with openings that are 2″ X 4″ (inches) or smaller.

Create a wire cylinder by wrapping the wire fence all the way around the trunk at a distance of at least eight inches out from the base of the tree. Do this for all the trees you want to protect. Cable ties or metal wire can be used to connect the end sections of the fence.

The height of the fence should go all the way up to the snow line, which could be more than five feet, depending on the location of your cabin. Normally, you don’t have to bury the bottom of the the wire cylinder.

Paint Mixed with Sand
For mature trees you can try mixing sand with outdoor latex paint and cover the trunks of the tree from the ground up to about five feet. The abrasive mixture will deter most beavers from taking down the tree. A mixture of about six ounces of sand per quart of paint should be adequate. For the metric crowd, that’s about 150 grams of sand per litre of paint.

Chicken wire is too weak and the beaver’s powerful teeth will go through it. It also tends rust and fall apart after a year or two.

Trees along the water are not the only ones at risk. A beaver will harvest trees as far as 150 feet (50 metres) inland, but this is rare because being that far from the water puts the beaver at an extreme risk of being killed by predators. Some of the animals that eat beavers are bears, wolves, lynx, foxes, otters, coyotes, cougars and eagles.

If you are planting small trees, the best way to protect them from beavers would be to put a wire fence around the entire area where the young trees are located.

What trees do beavers prefer?
Beavers use the trees for both food and as a source of building material for the lodge. They will eat the inner bark, leaves and twigs and then use the stripped branches or trunks to fortify their homes. Aspen, birch, alder, cottonwood, willow and red maple are favourites but beavers will also take down other deciduous trees and even the odd pines like the jack pine seen in the picture above.

Beavers will harvest a variety of tree sizes from the little saplings they can cut with a single bite to large mature trees with trunks greater than 24 inches in diameter.

Beavers will also eat aquatic plants, shrubs and even crops if they are located near a farm.

When the beaver problem persists and the damage gets out of control the only way to stop the beavers is to get rid of them. Destroying the lodge is not effective. The beavers will simply rebuild it. Relocating the beavers is also not very helpful. It might move them away from your property but beavers are territorial and simply dumping them off someplace else is not a good idea.

It is always best to contact your local conservation authorities such as the DNR or MNR to get some advice on your legal options. The next step is to contact a licensed trapper who knows how to humanely catch and dispose of the beavers.

Go the How to Keep a Mink Out of The Boat page for advice on dealing with a problem mink.

Go to the Mice in the Cabin page for tips on how to keep mice out of the cottage.

Go to the Facts About Carpenter Ants page to learn about way to get rid of ants at the cabin.