Why It’s Tough To Repel Beavers (How To Do It Anyways)
You love your home because of the scenic views: plentiful trees, a grassy lawn, a beautiful nearby stream… and then beavers move in.
It’s tough to repel beavers because they’re quick builders, territorial, and rely on hiding from predators rather than running away. An established beaver colony is hard to ward off, but you can use gritty paint on trees, cayenne pepper, and metal fencing to make waterways difficult to use for a dam.
However, even that can be tough. Let’s take a look at why it’s so hard to repel beavers, and what you can do to protect your property!
Understanding How Beavers Work
Beavers are important to the environment, and their presence helps maintain wetlands according to research from the National Library of Medicine. Because of this, it’s better to repel beavers than attempt to remove them.
Beavers are so tough to repel in part due to their biological characteristics. Unlike many other pests, beavers are intelligent and organized. They work together in colonies to build and scavenge for food.
Physically, they’re also quite fearsome—particularly when it comes to their bite. But let’s start with the most astonishing trait about beavers: their feats of engineering.
Beavers Are Nature’s Engineers
Beavers are one of the only species of animal that actively alters the environment around them—they’re often referred to as nature’s engineers because of their propensity for building. In fact, beavers are capable of building a dam in under 24 hours.
That’s right: a colony of beavers can set up shop in under a day.
Beavers are also the only non-human animal ever credited with changing the flow of waterways. A beaver colony’s dam can slow water or even create stagnant water or wetlands.
This can be beneficial in cases where wetland renewal is necessary, but in your backyard that can cause more damage. They may also inadvertently block drainage pipes with their dams and lodges, causing flooding or clogged pipes.
In addition to altering waterways, beavers can (and will) cut down trees for food and lodging. In some cases, they remove old and unwanted trees. But a colony of beavers can also destroy well-loved and intentionally placed trees, and do so very quickly.
Beavers Girdle Trees To Build Lodges
Beavers turn branches and other scraps of wood into their dams and surrounding homes known as lodges.
Lodges can be built on the banks or in the center of the water, and feature multiple entrances, most of which are underwater.
These structures increase the surrounding depth of water and create a space for the colony to store food and stay warm during the winter.
Sometimes beavers fell trees for their homes, and sometimes they just damage them. Beavers have been known to girdle trees, which means they remove all of the bark around a tree as high as they can reach (usually two to three feet). This usually happens in winter when they are looking for food.
Because of the impact they have on the environment, research from the National Park Service suggests beavers are a keystone species.
That means they positively influence surrounding species and areas, and the environment would be significantly and negatively impacted if they were ever to go extinct. This is why it’s important to focus on repelling them instead of removing them.
Beavers Are One Of The World’s Largest Rodents (With A Powerful Bite)
Beavers are the largest rodent in North America, and the second largest rodent in the world (after South America’s semi-aquatic capybara). They have webbed feet for swimming and a long, flat tail.
Like most rodents, beavers have large teeth that grow continuously. Their enormous, orange teeth require constant chewing to wear them down. Otherwise, they grow large enough to cause pain and discomfort.
Because beavers eat and use wood for building materials, they EXTREMELY strong chompers.
While they have strong teeth, beavers rarely attack. Instead, they use other means to protect themselves.
Beavers Tend To Stay In Colonies Of Six
Beavers are most well known for their flat tails. Beavers use their tails to propel while swimming, support themselves while standing on land (particularly while chomping down on trees), and as a defense mechanism.
(Despite what cartoons claim, beavers do not use their tails to slap mud onto their dams. That’s just a fun mental image)
Beavers can easily sense vibrations while on land. When these vibrations indicate a predator, beavers dive into the water to escape, then surface and slap their tails against the water to warn the rest of their colony.
Unlike other rodents, beavers are very familial. Beaver colonies are made up of a pair of parents and one to two years’ worth of offspring. Usually this amounts to six to seven beavers per colony, and up to 12 in the case of large families.
Because beavers like to live in family groups, they might intend to stay on your property for quite some time. In fact, beavers are very territorial. They use scent marking to repel other beavers and competing animals.
But what is it about your property in particular the beavers find enticing?
Why Beavers Are So Hard To Repel
Beavers live with their original colony until they are about two years old. At that point, they will leave in search of their own territory—which could be your home.
There are a few things beavers look for in a home:
- Slow-moving streams, wide bodies of moving water, or culverts and drainpipes.
- Food, particularly herbaceous plants, mushrooms, and their favorite kinds of wood.
- Proximity to their colony of origin. Beavers usually move only five to six miles away from their parents.
- Aspen, willow, and other hardwood trees. Beavers have several favorite kinds of trees, but they hate conifers like pine.
Once they settle in, beavers are hard to repel. There are a few reasons why.
Beavers Rely On Hiding, Not Running
Many pests can be repelled from an area using the sounds or smells of their predators. Beavers have several scary predators, including wolves, coyotes, and bobcats.
It seems simple enough: just spread the scent of predators around your property, and watch smugly as the offending beavers flee. But it isn’t that simple.
There have been studies by the USDA to determine if the scents or smells of these animals repel beavers, but the results are inconclusive.
Predator scents, for instance, only repel beavers for a short period of time and become ineffective when the beavers don’t see an accompanying predator.
Beavers are probably resistant to scent repellents because they hunker down when frightened. Instead of abandoning the area in the event of an imminent predator attack, they alert their colony and hide in their lodges.
This is because…
Beavers Are Very Territorial
Beavers are highly territorial and take measures to avoid being pushed out of their homes.
To repel other animals, beavers mark their territory in two ways: first, they build small mounds around the boundaries of their territory.
Second, they scent-mark these mounds. This serves as both a visual and olfactory clue that this land is theirs.
Because they set up clear boundaries around their home, beavers aren’t likely to give it up easily. They’ve taken energy and time to set up their home and will often persevere past inconveniences in order to keep the area from falling into another colony’s paws.
Beavers compete with other colonies for land. If a colony does leave the area, another enterprising beaver might set up shop.
This means beavers are very stubborn.
Beavers Quickly Rebuild Destroyed Dams
One very common reaction to finding a beaver dam is to destroy it. This isn’t always easy, as some dams and lodges can be very deep and well-built.
However, beavers don’t give up that easily. Research from the Agricultural Drainage Assistance Program shows that beavers can rebuild their dams in as little as 48 hours and will happily do so.
Destroying a dam does little to dissuade beavers, and it can be hazardous for you to try to do so. Instead, let’s take a look at some simple ways to repel beavers from your property.
How to Repel Beavers
Beavers are very intelligent, but they’re still animals. They will enter your property looking for shelter and food. If these things become less available to them, your yard won’t be as appealing.
Since they are nature’s engineers, beavers are drawn to areas they can build in. According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, site modification is the most effective way to repel beavers.
In addition, beavers normally seek new territories in the spring. That means winter is the best time to beaver-proof your land.
6 Ways You Can Deter Beavers
Now, onto the good stuff. Here’s a few ways to keep beavers out for good.
Make Waterways Difficult To Dam
Beavers look for wide, slow-moving streams to make their dams and lodges. Man-made culverts, like those found under roads or bridges, are also very appealing. In fact, culverts can easily become clogged or damaged because of beaver dams.
It isn’t feasible to fence off a stream, but you can protect any culverts that are on your land by building a small enclosure around them. A simple fence made with posts and mesh, such as this 19 Gauge Galvanized Steel Mesh can surround a culvert and prevent a passing beaver from taking interest.
Any sort of construction in a waterway can be hazardous, so be sure to rely on professionals for help. Also make sure that your locality allows for any structure to be near culverts or in waterways.
Additionally, beavers will also anchor their dams in shallow water near structures such as rock walls or tree stumps. Remove or grind down any tree stumps near waterways so beavers have one less anchor point.
If there are other structures near water that could be used as a dam foundation, erect steel fencing around it if possible. In some cases, it may be simpler to just remove these structures if they are unneeded.
Remove Unused Wood Or Branches
When entering a new territory, one of the first things a beaver will do is build their dam. While beavers are perfectly equipped to gather their own lumber, they also won’t object to using any nearby materials.
Brush piles, construction materials, or other collections of wood are like IKEA for beavers: all the necessary parts, with some assembly required.
Be sure to dispose of unwanted wood before it’s used in a beaver dam.
In addition, consider thinning out forested areas around your home. Underbrush can be very enticing to beavers and is much easier for them to collect than full-grown trees.
Keeping a clean yard will help prevent these pesky engineers from settling in and harming your land.
Fence Off Your Hardwood Trees
Beavers are herbivores, so they rely on a diet of greens, fungi, and wood from trees.
Thanks to their teamwork and strong bite, beavers are easily able to down a full-grown tree just by gnawing on it. They eat some of the tree and use other parts in their dams and lodges.
Beavers also have an appetite for certain trees. They prefer hardwood trees, and especially like aspen, willow, cottonwood, birch, apple, cherry, and maple.
That means these trees are especially vulnerable to beavers. Your beloved hardwood trees could require some extra protection in the event of a beaver colony moving in.
Beavers are great chewers, but they can’t chew through everything. One way to protect your trees is to surround them with something beavers can’t chew through.
If you have a beloved but young tree, you can protect it with these Plastic Plant and Tree Trunk Protectors.
Larger trees may require stronger defenses, such as galvanized steel mesh. You can wrap this around trees, or even create a small fence around it using sturdy posts to support the mesh.
Of course, steel mesh and plastic trunk protectors can be unsightly and may not be feasible if you have a large number of trees. In that case, you may want to consider other options, like these 7 simple tips for keeping beavers off your trees.
Protect Tree Trunks With Paint And Sand
While predator scents don’t drive beavers away, textures can. According to Oregon State Fish & Wildlife, beavers dislike gritty textures. When applied to trees, this grittiness repels beavers from gnawing on them.
To texturize trees, mix sand with paint and apply it to the trunk. You can use Quikrete All-Purpose Sand to add grittiness to latex or oil paint.
Simply add 2/3 cup of sand per quart of paint, then apply it all around the trunk of the tree. Make sure it goes up high enough that beavers can’t stand on their hindquarters and chew above the grittiness—about four feet should suffice.
Additionally, you may want to ensure you tint the paint to the same color as the tree’s bark. This will help maintain the natural beauty of your landscape.
Hot Sauce And Cayenne Pepper Can Repel Beavers
Beavers love to eat your favorite trees and they hate spicy food just as much.
A study from the Wildlife Research Bulletin found that a mixture of hot sauce animal repellent proved promising for keeping beavers away from trees. This hot sauce repellent was more effective on some trees than others, but still deterred beavers.
To make your spicy anti-beaver spray, you can use Bulk Cayenne Pepper Powder. In a sprayer, mix a couple of scoopfuls with water. Spray it over tree trunks, going up about four feet from the ground.
You can also try sprinkling cayenne pepper around trees. While beavers won’t stay away from predator scents in the long term, they may avoid unpleasant food smells.
Because you only need a small amount of cayenne pepper for this mixture, you should be able to cover a large number of trees, so this should be more cost-effective than painting each individual tree trunk.
It’s best to use this method if you suspect beavers are about to move, because once they’re established, they will be more likely to ignore the spice.
In addition, the cayenne powder can be irritating to pets. Be mindful of any areas your dogs or cats like to explore, because they may also be deterred by the scent.
Use Loud Noises Near Beaver-Friendly Places
Beavers have very sensitive paws. In fact, they are full of nerves meant to sense vibrations both on land and in water. This is to help them flee from any potential predators.
A simple way to use these would be to play loud music or noises near beaver-friendly places. If you have a culvert on your property, for instance, you can use a portable radio (such as this Panasonic Portable AM/FM Radio) to create beaver-repelling noises.
Keep in mind the sound needs to be high enough to create vibrations. This might not be ideal if you are looking to maintain your pristine, relaxing surroundings—and any nearby neighbors might have complaints as well.
Like many of these repelling tips, this one is best used before beavers move in. Once they are situated in their lodges, beavers are likely to wait out any strange noises or vibrations. The security of their structures is no match for most predators, after all.
That’s A Wrap!
While it can be fun to watch beavers splash and play in the water, they can cause untold damage to nearby trees. Hardwood trees are especially vulnerable to their voracious appetites and constant need for building materials.
They’re also very difficult to repel due to their homebody nature and territorial behavior—once they move in, it’s hard to get them to move out. However, with mindful site modification, you can make your home less appealing to beavers.
Maintaining your trees, protecting them from gnawing beavers, and using strategic tastes and sensations can help keep beavers from settling in.
Hopefully these tips will help you protect your land from these aquatic annoyances. That said, if beavers have moved into your pond or stream, it may be necessary to call a professional. A wildlife expert can provide you with the help you need to safely address a beaver colony.
Until then, may your trees and waterways be safe and beaver-free!
Labrecque-Foy, J., Morin, H., Montoro Girona, M. (2020). Dynamics of territorial occupation by North American beavers in Canadian boreal forests: A novel dendroecological approach. Forests, 11(2), 221.
Muller-Schwarze, D. (2011) The beaver: Natural history of a wetlands engineer. Cornell University Press.Romansic, J.M., Nelson, N.L., Moffett, K.B., Piovia-Scott, J. (2020). Beaver dams are associated with enhanced amphibian diversity via lengthened hydroperiods and increased representation of slow-developing species. Freshwater Biology, 66(2), 481-494.