Beavers, although a nuisance to your backyard trees, are ecosystem engineers. They build lodges, cut down trees, filter water, generate wetlands, and of course, even eat the trees growing in your backyard.
The best ways to keep beavers away from trees involves is to use fencing. Wire barriers, textured paint mixtures, outside dogs, predator urine, motion-activated sprinklers, sprayable hot sauce solutions, and planting pines trees will also help deter them.
Being in an urban area does not guarantee a beaver-free zone. If your land is near a water source or a heavily wooded forest, you’ll probably encounter a beaver or two admiring your trees. Let’s get to saving your trees!
Where Are The Beavers Even Coming From?
Beavers are one of the easiest, and largest, rodents to identify. With the potential to weigh up to 100 pounds, they’re hard to miss.
For us, they’re easy to spot. But the eyesight of the average beaver is very poor, so it’s unlikely they’ll ever see you first. However, beavers have an exceptional sense of smell and sound.
Beavers will sniff out their preferred trees such as aspens, willows, and cottonwoods. These might just happen to be growing in your backyard. Beavers are also known to eat grasses, ferns, blackberries, and other common crops.
If food sources are scarce in their swampy area, you’ll likely find them scavenging around your home for these snacks.
Luckily for your trees and crops, beavers don’t forage beyond 165 feet of the water’s edge, but a short supply of trees to snack on will send them searching as far as twice that distance.
During the later fall months, foraging becomes more intense as the beavers begin to build and prepare for the winter. (This is usually the case for any backyard pest.)
Beavers are also nocturnal creatures, so it’s unlikely you’ll find them gnawing through your trees in broad daylight. They cut down trees most often during dawn and dusk.
That’s still not good news though, as the night gives them plenty of time to eat, so by first light you may wake up to a fallen tree.
In fact, beavers can cut through a mature tree in just under 8 minutes. Not to brag, but I can finish an entire plate of food in less than half that time. Amateurs.
Simple Tips To Keep Beavers Off Your Trees Without Trapping
So, how do you keep your forest from being devastated overnight?
While it’s not likely that the whole neighborhood of beavers are meeting up in your backyard at night to eat through your forest, it is likely that one single beaver can destroy your favorite shade tree after the sun sets.
To keep your trees safe, you have to keep the beavers away.
Decades ago, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, beavers were on the brink of being trapped to extinction. Proper wildlife management quickly turned that rate around, which is why a beaver in your backyard isn’t as uncommon as it used to be.
The decline in trapping has allowed nature’s engineers to build back up in numbers and wander beyond their water front properties.
There are some simple tips to keep beavers off your trees without trapping them listed below!
Use Fencing To Keep Beavers Off Your Trees
The easiest and most efficient way to keep the beavers off your tree is by installing fencing. You can loosely wrap your trees with wire fencing, hardware cloth, or multiple layers of chicken wire to keep the beavers off.
If you choose to create a barrier around the base of your trees to keep the beavers out, it is recommended that you wrap the fencing loosely to give the tree room to grow, and place the fencing at least 4 feet high to discourage climbing.
Beavers aren’t the best climbers and won’t eat through wires.
You can also block off groups of trees, or your entire backyard, with 4 foot high field fencing to keep beavers from chewing on your trees.
Do be aware that preventing access to trees, the most favorable food source for beavers, will leave them searching nearby for other sources such as your shrubs and crops.
Electric fencing around your entire yard is a great option to deter wildlife and beavers from feasting on your crops and trees.
Of course, if you’re backed to a heavily wooded forest and plan to keep all your trees safe, fencing is not the most practical option, which is why we offer more tips below.
Protect Your Trees From Beavers By Using A Painting Mixture
Beavers eat trees, and the trees they don’t eat still may be used for constructing their elaborate wood lodges.
You can keep your trees from becoming their next home or meal by making the tree bark unpalatable to beavers.
One way that has been tested and proven to keep the beavers off is by mixing sand with paint and painting the bark of the tree.
Beavers find trees tasty, but find sand too gritty.
After noticing the sandy texture of the tree, the beavers will wander off until they find a new wood to chew on.
Beavers might wander into your wood piles or wooden deck to start gnawing on also, so consider painting your deck with textured paint to deter beaver damage.
To successfully keep beavers off your trees, you can mix ⅔ cup of masonry grade sand per quart of latex paint.
Mason sand is any smooth, clean, and fine sand. This Premium Grade Play Sand is a clean, classic sand that is still gritty enough to keep the beavers away.
Mix ⅔ of sand with one whole quart of Kona Brown Rust-Oleum Latex Paint and paint 3-4 feet of the trunk to repel beavers from your trees.
Both of these options are non-toxic and safe for your trees.
Latex paint allows your trees to continue to “breathe” while keeping the sand at the surface to repel beavers.
Your Dog Can Keep Beavers Off Your Trees
As always, dogs make the perfect deterrent for pesky wildlife, especially beavers.
And, of course, they also make the most perfect addition to the family.
In a series of studies conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, the odor of any domestic dog, among other predators, was found to act as a natural beaver repellent.
In fact, when any predator scent was present, the overall feeding of beavers was reduced.
One study in the series suggested that only 17% of the trees that contained a predator odor were consumed by beavers during the trial, proving to be very effective.
Simply allowing your dog to mark the perimeter of your property will repel beavers from entering your yard. Perhaps it’s not the worst thing if they’re peeing on your trees.
And if your pup is anything like mine, they’ll instinctively chase after the wildlife or offer a quick bark to send signals to the beaver that your trees aren’t for eating.
Dogs aren’t only good for keeping beavers away. Black bears are scared of dogs too!
Frighten the Beavers From Felling Your Trees
If you don’t have a pup to frighten the beavers off, there are many other frightening devices you can use to keep the beavers off your trees.
While frightening devices initially scare beavers, over time they grow accustomed to the tactic if not changed up often. Frightening devices that stimulate two senses, such as a beaver’s sense of sound and smell, are most effective.
You can discourage beavers with frightening devices such as strobe lights, sirens, firecrackers, radios, and motion-sensing devices.
The Orbit Yard Enforcer Motion-Activated Sprinkler deters pests from entering your yard, including beavers. I have one of these myself to repel deer from eating our wonderful doorway entry display.
This sprinkler can simply be set into the soil near your tasty trees and when motion is sensed, it will shoot off a stream of water in the direction of the intruder.
Not only does the sound of the sprinkler activating startle the beavers, but the instant stream of water will send them straight back to their own water source.
Spray Solutions Around Your Trees To Keep Beavers Away
Since beavers have a heightened sense of smell, there are some strong scents that are known to keep them away from your trees.
Hot sauce is one of the more widely known tastes and scents that beavers hate.
Simply coating your tree in some hot sauce might be enough to keep the beavers from toppling your trees. It might also deter some other pests and bugs from your trees.
It was found that hot sauce was most effective in repelling beavers from cottonwood trees.
On that same note, mixing cayenne pepper in some warm water and spraying this solution around your trees can also be effective in keeping beavers away.
And of course, garlic cloves mixed with warm water are also efficient in keeping wildlife and bugs away from your plants and trees.
When it comes to scent, it has been accepted that mothballs might deter beavers, and even snakes, but it is not the best option around your home and trees. Mothballs are illegal to use outside of repelling moths and personally, I have a vendetta against them.
Testing out different natural sprayable solutions around your trees will help you find the best option for your beaver and pest situations for scents, but start with cayenne pepper and perhaps peppermint oil or white vinegar as those are the most common scents that work for a variety of other pests.
Is it a beaver or a muskrat that’s causing you grief? Minus the wood chewing, they have similar habits and hate similar scents. Here are scents that muskrats hate (and how to use them).
Plant Trees And Shrubs That Beavers Hate To Deter Them
If you’re up in the mountains, you’ve probably noticed that the beavers aren’t coming after your forest of spruces. But maybe you have noticed that the aspen groves are full of them.
Beavers find deciduous trees delectable and find certain coniferous trees confusing.
Not only that, but the diameter of aspen trees are optimal for beavers, whereas those spruce and pine trees are too monstrous to eat through in under 8 minutes.
Deciduous trees change and lose their leaves at the end of autumn while coniferous trees stay green all year round – hence their other name, evergreens.
Typically, your backyard shade tree is going to be some form of a deciduous tree which automatically attracts the beavers.
If that’s the case, there are some specific plants that you can include in your landscape to deter beavers from entering your yard to begin with.
Plant areas with spruce, elderberry, and ninebark because they are not the beavers preferred plant.
Some maple trees have also been known to be avoided by beavers.
If you’re really looking to plant that willow tree in your yard, plant it away from any beaver trails or tracks to increase its chance for survival.
You can also densely plant their non-preferred plants near your tree to avoid any beaver encounters.
Remove Beaver Attractants To Keep Them Out Of Your Yard And Off Your Trees
Toppled trees in the forest are a good indication that beavers are living somewhere nearby.
If they are living close, it’s just a matter of time before their sources become scarce and they come scavenging around your yard.
And even if you haven’t noticed any signs of beavers nearby, hungry beavers will search far and wide for a tree to use for their home or snack.
Hungry beavers ignore repellents. The key to keeping the beavers off your trees is by preventing their presence on your property to begin with.
By understanding what trees are bringing the beavers to your yard, you’ll be able to solve their invasion at the root.
Your Apple Trees Might Be Attracting Beavers
Beavers will eat the bark, twigs, stems and leaves of trees, aquatic plants, and crops.
Fruit trees are one of the main food sources of beavers including apple and cherry trees.
They will gnaw straight through the tree until it topples over, and then clip branches from the fallen tree to store for construction or food.
Avoid planting apple trees near the edge of your backyard if it backs to a water source or heavily wooded area. Also, install a barrier around your apple tree seedling to allow it time to become established before the beavers pluck it from the ground.
Any tree in its young stage is at risk for beavers, as they are easier to chew through and use from construction.
Understanding that fruit trees attract beavers will weigh in on your decision on where and how to plant your apple tree.
Beavers Love Open Water Sources
Beavers usually set roots near water sources that house a decent food supply and an optimal place to build a dam.
Beavers can be found near streams, rivers, lakes, marshes, and even roadside ditches if they have year-round water flow.
Locating small water sources around your home and eliminating them can keep the beavers away.
Wood Piles and Wooden Decks Attract Beavers To Your Home
While beavers don’t mind working their way through a tree to take back home, easier sources of wood to carry off are attractive to beavers.
Piles of sticks, wood logs, or wooden fencing around your home can be eaten by beavers.
Beavers will even take a few bites out of your wooden deck if it appears to be in rough shape.
Of course, these are not a beaver’s preferred food source, so it’s rare that this may actually happen, but hungry beavers will devour any wood source in their sight.
That’s A Wrap!
Beavers are nature’s engineers. They’re meant to be admired from afar, and not from your backyard as they eat through your trees at record rates.
Potential beaver attractants around your home include fruit trees, agricultural crops, water sources, and wood piles.
Removing these sources should be the first step to keeping beavers away from your trees.
Other tips include frightening the beavers away, using scents to deter them, and protecting your trees with fencing.
Young trees are especially attractive to beavers, so to ensure no beavers eat through your trees, it is best to wrap them in wire fencing. This is the best tip to keep beavers from toppling your trees.
Their teeth are ever-growing, and so is their hunger for bark, so properly managing your property and using these tips can keep them from wandering upon your yard and felling your trees.
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Engelhart, A., & Müller-Schwarze, D. (1995). Responses of beaver (Castor canadensis Kuhl) to predator chemicals. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 21(9), 1349-1364.
Hardisky, T. (2011). Beaver management in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Game Commission. Harrisburg, PA.
Jones, K. C. (2006). Ecological effects of the feeding and construction activities of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) in Scotland: Implications for reintroduction.
MAPLE, R. (1994). BEAVER (Castor canadensis). Journal of Chemical Ecology, 20(8).
Zwolicki, A., Pudełko, R., Moskal, K., Świderska, J., Saath, S., & Weydmann, A. (2019). The importance of spatial scale in habitat selection by European beaver. Ecography, 42(1), 187-200.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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