How to Deal With Beavers
Best ways to stop a beaver from cutting down the cottage trees
How can you prevent beavers from harvesting the trees on your cottage property?
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 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 to stop beavers from eating trees
The best thing to do to stop a beaver from cutting down your true is to 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.
Chicken wire is too weak. The beaver’s powerful teeth will go through the wire mesh. Chicken wire also tends rust and fall apart after a year or two.
Apply paint mixed with sand to protect trees from beavers
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.
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.
Which types of trees do beavers prefer to eat?
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 also eat aquatic plants, shrubs and even crops if the lodge is located near a farm.
How to trap a beaver
When the beaver problem persists and the damage gets out of control the only way to stop the beaver is to get rid of the animal. Destroying the beaver lodge is not effective. The beaver will simply rebuild it. Relocating the beaver is also not very helpful. It might move the animal 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 for removing beavers. The next step is to contact a licensed trapper or agent 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.