Many see beavers as a nuisance, but they are great for the environment. In this article, I wanted to explore some of the reasons and give tips on protecting trees in your area.
Beavers are essential in establishing and maintaining biodiversity in wetlands and providing new habitats for other plants, animals, and insects. Beavers have several benefits for the environment. Their influence can be seen in development, tourism, agriculture, the environment, and the ecosystem’s general health.
The fur trade and other human activities almost made beavers extinct. Soon after the governments took action against the fur trade on beavers and deforestation, the beavers’ numbers rose again.
In North America alone, there were up to four hundred million beavers. The number now stands somewhere between six and twelve million.
What Are Beaver Ponds?
Beaver ponds are small bodies of water created by beavers due to their dam-building activities. They are typically found in areas with an abundance of trees, and the beavers’ dams help control water levels and create a pool of water that serves many important functions. Beaver ponds provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for various wildlife species, such as ducks, geese, fish, frogs, and turtles.
They also play an important role in providing a habitat for migrating birds. The beaver ponds act as a natural filter system, helping to improve water quality by trapping sediment and pollutants before they reach larger waterways.
Additionally, these wetlands store large amounts of carbon dioxide due to the amount of vegetation, which helps to reduce global warming. Beaver ponds are essential parts of freshwater ecosystems—their presence provides numerous benefits to humans and nature alike. Plants provide food and cover for many animals. Beaver ponds are among the most biologically productive ecosystems.
Beaver ponds increase plants, birds, and wildlife varieties in the area. Beaver ponds also improve water quality, increase fish populations such as trout, and provide excellent salmon habitats for spawning. By gnawing and cutting through trees, beavers open up tree canopies.
These gaps in the tree canopies allow light to penetrate deep into the water below. The increase of light triggers improvement in biological activities in the water. Aquatic plants and algae soon start to grow with the increase of sunlight. Algae and other aquatic plants help to support small animals and plants. Plants and other marine organisms become food for larger animals, including songbirds, fish, and mammals.
Beaver Ponds Create Habitats For Other Animals
Beavers are riparian; to build a dam, they must gnaw and chew through trees. The dams they build are made up of lots of trees. Beaver dams are very beneficial as they offer a habitat for different animal species.
Grasses, bushes, sedges, and saplings grow near beaver dams, and these plants can provide food for many types of animals. These plants also provide shelter for many different species.
How Dams Improve The Flow Of Water
The increased quality of the water can benefit other animal species. These animals include wood ducks, otters, and mink.
Fish also get help with their survival from the increase in freshwater. Some fish species, such as steelhead, salmon, and rainbow smelt, will reproduce more around beaver dams as the stream flows easier.
Another benefit is that beaver dams will recharge the water we drink. The barriers stabilize the water table, controlling the water downstream, which is essential during a drought.
Learning and Knowledge
Another reason why we need beavers in North America is for education. Students and children can quickly learn how ecosystems work through beaver dams and colonies.
They can learn about their local ecosystems while at the same time enjoying them through observations and photography. This is an important reason governments should extend public education to these areas, especially where beavers live in large numbers.
Problems Between Beavers and Humans
Beavers are regarded by many as pests, but no other animal species benefit wetlands as they do.
There exists an ongoing conflict between beavers and humans. Beavers will find habitats in areas that humans currently occupy. However, humans and beavers are united against two common threats, floods, and deforestation.
One of the significant problems between humans and beavers is the amount of damage done to trees. Reducing trees due to a wildfire, deforestation, and lacking consistency in tree planting is causing problems far worse than beavers do. These problems extend not only to beavers but also to other animals.
Beavers, for their part, destroy trees and plants, which results in a massive conflict between people and these animals. Beavers destroy trees whenever they come across them and will damage trees in urban and suburban areas.
Flooding is also an issue facing humans from beaver colonies, especially around a floodplain. Flooding can be a real problem after there are heavy rains or snow. The extra water enters the rivers causing major blockages due to the beavers’ dams causing a flood risk.
Protecting trees from beavers will take a little work, but it can be done quickly and cheaply. Trunk guards can be placed around the trunk of the trees. The trunk guards should be installed up to three feet from the ground and made of galvanized welded wire.
These materials can be found in your local hardware or home improvement stores and are usually sold as fencing. I am not a fan of chicken wire because it is very light and too flimsy to provide protection.
You can also protect the trees by painting the trunks with a mixture of paint and sand. Some findings from the USDA prove that painting the base of the tree with a mix of sand and color can help protect them. The mixture of paint and sand prevents beavers from gnawing through trees.
To ensure that you cannot notice the trees’ paint, you can use a color that blends well with the trees. This will stop the beavers from chewing through your trees and stop everyone from asking why you have painted your trees.
Beavers are not good climbers, so a small amount of fencing can help keep them away from your trees. The fence will need to be no higher than four feet. A wall of this height will significantly inconvenience the beaver, making them give up. After fencing the tree, you should always check to ensure the fence is still intact. Beavers can, with time, try to push under the fence.
You can opt for electrified wire, which can deter beavers from getting to an area.
Electrified wire can be effective in small spaces, such as a loved tree, or even used to protect a crop plot, and will protect the crops without harming the beaver.
The traditional methods required to remove beavers used explosives or heavy machinery to destroy their dams. However, today, there are better methods.
Using machinery or explosives to destroy a dam does work. However, there are chances that the beaver will build another one quickly. Today, experts use deterrents to stop beavers from building dams. Many deterrents can be used, with experts trying to take advantage of the beaver’s natural behavior.
The design and installation of a beaver deterrent can be very complicated. For this reason, it is best to seek the services of an expert.
Most people will only know about the presence of beavers when they are a nuisance. The methods above will hopefully help you to keep beavers around without them being a nuisance.
The Future of Beavers
The future of beavers looks bright. With an increase in conservation efforts, their populations are growing and expanding into new habitats. As their numbers grow, so does their influence on the environment and our ecosystems.
Beavers play an important role in water and wetland management, flood control, nutrient cycling, and erosion prevention. In addition to these benefits, beavers act as keystone species in many landscapes by creating diverse habitat types that support other species.
By building dams and creating wetlands, beavers create a habitat for fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The presence of beavers also enhances biodiversity by providing food sources for other animals, such as salmon and trout populations, muskrats, or ducks. As we continue to understand the importance of beavers in our environment, we can work to create more sustainable habitats that will benefit not only beavers but will provide refuge to other species as well.
There were almost 60 million beavers in North America, but due to the demand for beaver pelts, the number is now between 6 and 10 million.
References and Further Reading
“Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife” by Paul A. Racey
“The Beaver: Its Life and Impact” by Dietland Müller-Schwarze
“Beaver Ecology and Conservation: A North American Perspective,” edited by Richard G. Wright and Michael J. Ralya
“Beavers: Master Engineers of Wetlands” by Mark Stromberg
“Beaver: Natural History of a Wetland Engineer” by Richard Thomas
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.