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Those Bothersome Beavers

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Image courtesy Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources Image courtesy Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources

The Game Trail on beavers, bears,

We are blessed up here to have an abundance of water in many forms with our lakes, streams, and wetlands. But rapid growth in the area, especially along our waterways, leads to more conflicts between our native wildlife and the new human inhabitants. The poor beaver seems to fall in our crosshairs as nuisance animal number one. I receive quite a number of calls about nuisance animals, especially in the spring. Here are some helpful tips about you and we (IDFG) deal with beavers.

So what does IDFG do about “nuisance” beavers? IDFG assistance is limited to providing information to people with nuisance and problem beaver. This assistance includes instructional materials, pamphlets, advice, clarification of applicable laws, and referral to experience trappers or private wildlife control companies. We manage beaver’s populations, not individual beaver problems. A liberal trapping season allows for trappers to remove beavers in problem areas while they make some money from pelts and enjoy the sport and art of trapping.

So what do you do if you are having damage from beavers on your property?  The first step is to identify that you are truly having problems. Many folks call and want the beavers shot or removed merely because they exist on their property. True beaver problems include flooding from culverts being plugged, and damage to ornamental trees. So if you do have a problem with beavers, now what?

First option: Learn to live with the beavers! In many circumstances those experiencing minor beaver damage problems, such as a beaver chewing trees or ornamental plantings on a lakefront or riverfront home, may elect to do nothing. Learning to live with wildlife and enjoying and understanding the creatures that share their habitat with you may be a good way of dealing with beaver damage. Turn a problem into an opportunity to watch wildlife by getting those kids away from the video games and getting them outdoors. Did you know that beaver ponds can prevent flooding and drought? Beaver ponds also provide habitat for birds and other watchable wildlife.

Second option: Protect your property. It can be fairly easy to protect your trees from busy beaver activity. First, you must understand beaver behavior so you are not protecting every single tree on your property. Beaver rarely cut down large pines or massive old trees; they prefer willow, poplar, cottonwood, alder, and birch. Also, the further the tree is from water, the less likely the tree will be felled. Some people find this behavior destructive, but quite the opposite is true. By having a beaver on your property you have your own personal forester! The beaver thins out these fast growing species and allows for healthier tree and shrub growth in the spring. 

Understandably there are trees that folks want to protect on their property, especially those close to buildings. Repellents are available, but they have drawbacks, including a very strong odor. I would suggest physical barriers. Heavy wire mesh, heavy gauge hardware cloth or tar paper will discourage beaver from cutting and gnawing trees along the shoreline. In general the protective material you choose should be cut to a height of about 3 feet, then wrapped around the tree. Mesh size should be less than 1 inch in order to be effective. The wire mesh or hardware cloth can be secured by wiring the ends together. Tar paper can be held in place by baling twine or wire. This protection is quite effective and inexpensive if few trees are involved. 

Another method involves painting with sand. Use approximately 8 ounces of fine sand mixed with one quart of oil or latex paint. Stir the mixture often because the sand will drop to the bottom of the can. Also paint the trunks of the trees about 4 feet high. If you have brand new trees that are less than 6 feet tall, you may want to avoid the sand paint method as I have heard it can harm certain trees.

Beaver often plug road culverts with dams. This problem can sometimes be slowed by building a horseshoe shaped fence around the upstream side of the culvert thus preventing the beaver from damming the culvert entrance. Beaver may build their dam around the fence but it is much easier to remove debris from the fence rather than from the inside of the culvert. Typical material used in a culvert fence material might include 30 ft wire with 6” x 6” squares and 4 to 6 posts. This is only one method of many for protecting your culverts. You can do an internet search for various other methods, such as the “beaver baffler” or the “beaver deceiver.” 

Presently, your local game wardens are again responding to a fair number of bear calls. You and your neighbors are the only ones that can stop a bear from frequenting or destroying personal property. Put all trash in a secure place, and NO, this does not mean the back of your pickup or the Rubbermaid trash can. Take down the bird feeders, Tweety doesn’t need your help this time of year, and please put Fido’s food in secure place as well. And clean that BBQ once in awhile. Hey, it’s our duty to the bears, and to our neighbors.

Get out there and enjoy all that we are blessed to have, do it responsibly, and share that knowledge with the next generation.

Leave No Child Inside.

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

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beavers, nuisance animals, The Game Trail

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