Living with Beavers in Washington County
Beavers live all over Oregon in streams, ponds and wetlands. They have thick fur, a wide, flat tail, long front teeth, and waddle on land. They also change their environment by cutting down trees and building dams. Beaver dams help filter water by slowing it down and trapping dirt and pollution.
There are many benefits to living with beavers. Their ponds create habitat for birds, dragonflies, frogs, salamanders, salmon, and otter. In summer, beaver dams hold water and help reduce the risk of wildfire.
At times, beavers can cause conflict when they live near humans. They may chew your trees or water levels may go up behind beaver dams. Luckily, there are simple solutions to many of these conflicts.
You can protect your plants and trees, or plant things that beavers don't like to eat. If water levels are too high, specialists can help install devices which keep the water levels low.
Before You Take Action, Ask Yourself:
1. Can I live with what is happening?
Sometimes beavers cause changes that are new to us, but are not dangerous. In the right places, beavers have many benefits. If it is safe, learning to live with beavers as neighbors can be a good solution. If the answer to this question is “no”, keep reading.
2. Do I need to call someone?
Follow this flow chart.
3. Can I fix the problem myself?
If you are the property manager, and the answer is “Yes”, you can do it yourself. See the "How-To" information further down this page.
If you do not own the property, find out who to call using the flow chart above.
If the problem is flooding, the answer is “No”. We recommend you call a professional. Learn what can be done about flooding further down the page.
How to stop beavers from chewing trees
There are several easy ways to prevent beavers from chewing trees you wish to protect. Learn more about sand painting, tree fencing, and using plants to deter beavers from chewing.
What: One of the most simple and low-cost options is to paint tree trunks with a mixture of sand and paint. This method works well on farms, natural areas, and in backyards and works best on trees with smooth bark.
Why it works: Beavers don’t like the feeling of sand on their mouth and will stop chewing. Unlike cages, paint will never restrict the growth of trees.
Make a mixture about 1 part sand with 6 parts paint. For example, about 5 oz. of fine sand with 1 quart of latex paint. Match the color of the paint to the color of the tree trunk for a natural look.
Paint the tree trunk from the ground to at least 4 feet above ground.
Visit Beaver Institute for more information.
What: Place a wire fence around trees that need protection from beavers.
Why it works: Beavers will not be able to chew the tree through the fence. This works for single trees and for small groups of trees. There should be some space between the fence and the tree. If the fence is too tight, it can damage the tree as it grows.
Wrap tree using thick wire mesh fencing. Chicken wire is not strong enough. Use fencing with holes that are 2-inches by 4-inches.
The fence should be at least 4 feet tall and 1-2 feet away from the trunk.
Hold the fencing in place by wrapping it around 2 or more t-posts on either side of the tree. Secure it to the ground with heavy duty landscape staples (6 inches long) to prevent beavers from crawling under the fence.
Check on the fencing as the tree grows to make sure the fence is secure and there is space between the trunk and the tree.
Check fencing after any flooding to ensure fence is secure. If it floods often, the fence may need to be taller to keep beavers out during floods.
Use plants beaver won’t chew
What: Plant species that beavers don’t like and will not die if chewed
Why it works: Beavers like to eat some plants, like willows and Big Leaf Maple trees, more than others. Other plants like Oregon grape and spiraea taste bad to them. If they are very hungry, they could eat anything. Usually, they will move on to find what they like. If they chew your favorite willow plant to the ground, wait for spring. New branches may appear, and the plant can become bushy.
How to stop beavers from chewing crops
Installing electric fencing can help keep beavers away from crops, but there are several considerations to make before installing such a fence...
Install Electric Fencing
What: Low-voltage electric fence along a crop area.
Why it works: Keeps beavers away from crops by giving them a nonlethal shock when they cross the fence. Orchards and farms have used electric fences to protect large areas from beavers. Electric fencing can work well on uneven ground and is more discrete than wire fencing.
Please Note: this is not recommended for areas that could hold water or flood
If you have not used an electric fence before, you should do research or get help from a local farm store. Some stores which may be of assistance include but are not limited to: Wilco Farm Store, Coastal Farm and Ranch.
Solar, battery or AC powered fence chargers can all work and should be sized according to the length of your fence. A 2 wire fence is recommended using 14 gauge wire, with the bottom wire 4-6” off the ground and the top wire 10-12” off the ground. Electric fence all the way around the area you wish to protect. Inspect the fence often to make sure it is not damaged.
How to address flooding from beavers
Beaver dams back up water to create ponds and wetlands. Ponds and wetlands are important for wildlife and help clean water. When beavers live near humans, dams sometimes flood areas that need to be dry. Professionals can lower water to safe levels without harming beavers by installing flow devices.
Permits may be required to install flow devices, and designs need to be approved by ODFW. Consult with a professional and ODFW before any installation.
Installing these devices yourself can be dangerous and may cause unintended consequences to wildlife. We recommend you hire a professional to install flow devices and develop a long-term maintenance plan to ensure functionality.
Professionals might use the following to help you:
These should only be installed by a qualified professional. Permits are required.
What: Pond levelers, also called “Beaver Deceivers”, are plastic pipes used to lower water levels when beaver dams cause unwanted flooding.
Why it works: A pipe placed on the beaver dam lets water move through the dam. If beavers build the dam higher, the pipe continues to let water move through. Pond levelers usually last 3 to 7 years when carefully maintained.
How-To: Call a professional. Professionals will find a water level that allows beavers to remain in their homes. They will know when a pond leveler is appropriate or suggest other options.
Only trained professionals should remove sticks and mud from culverts and install culvert fencing. ODFW, county and city may need to approve design. Permits may be required.
What: Culverts are pipes that help water drain under roads. Sometimes beavers clog the pipes with sticks and mud, and water floods the road. A fence is built around the culvert to keep beaver dams a safe distance from the pipe.
Why it works: Beavers cannot get close enough to the culvert to block it. Professionally built fences will last many years.
How-To: Call a professional. Professionals will be able to safely remove debris from the culvert and will know how and where to install an effective fence.
If you are in need of assistance:
The following contractors have either enrolled in or completed a training hosted by the Beaver Institute called the Beaver Corps Professional Training Program. This program trains individuals in non-lethal beaver management and coexistence solutions. If you are a private property owner in search of professional assistance with one of these devices, we recommend getting in touch with someone from this list:
Luc Lamarche - Beaver Craftworks, LLC
Keith Chaloux - Pest and Pollinator, LLC
Tim Sexauer - Keystone Elements LLC
This is a growing list and will be added to as more folks complete the training.
Removing beavers (a last resort)
There are many Do-It-Yourself and professional options that can help us live with beaver. We recommend allowing them to remain in their homes because they are important to the health of our ecosystem.
Removing beavers may not solve the problems on your property and will only serve as a temporary solution. If the habitat is suitable, new beavers will soon arrive. Working with one beaver family is easier than removing many beaver families over time. The cost of continued removal is often more expensive than using coexistence methods which last several years.
If removing beavers from your property is your only option, we recommend hiring a professional to lethally trap them. Relocating live beavers is not feasible or humane. Be prepared to ask a professional what techniques they use to trap beavers, and what they will do with the beavers once they are trapped.
For more information on permitting, and a list of professional trappers listed on ODFW's website, click here.