‘Holy cow, my trees are gone!’
GYPSUM – It was a typical morning for Tim McMichael. He walked out into his back yard, ready to do a little gardening. But then it hit him – something was wrong. Something was different.Some proverbially busy beavers had attacked his backyard aspen trees.”It’s funny because you don’t notice it right away,” McMichael said. “All of a sudden you’re like, ‘Holy cow, my trees are gone!'”His wife, Melanie had the same experience. “The big trees you are used to seeing are gone. They aren’t even on the ground,” said Melanie, who thinks the beavers are getting more brave. “They are now going into front yards and even across the street.”Residents of Gypsum’s Eagle River Estates neighborhood have seen trees disappear over night for several years now, all due to some hungry beavers. Many of the subdivision lots are adjacent to the river.Some Eagle River Estates residents think something more should be done to stop the beavers. “I think the wildlife people should be involved,” resident Hugo Benson said. “They should trap them and move them somewhere else in the county.”That’s not possible. Colorado law allows people who are properly licensed to trap beavers. Once trapped, the animals can be killed or relocated But moving the beavers requires permission from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Also, relocating a beaver after Sept. 1 is not generally successful, because the animals are removed from their food supply and end up starving to death.
Craig Wescoatt, area manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said cutting down trees is simply what beavers do. “They’ve been there a long time, and they are always going to be there as long as the river stays there,” said Wescoatt. Even if these beavers were to move, by themselves or by force, new ones would come along shortly thereafter, he said.Beavers are the largest rodent in North American and Canada. They can weigh 60 to 70 pounds, and can be as long as 46 inches.
Beavers are hungry animals who stock up on food, and use their food source to build their homes, which are called ‘lodges,’ Wescoatt. Beavers can cut down and drag away entire trees in a few short hours, and after they get the tree on the ground, they will often gnaw it up in sections to drag it away. “They take it down to the water and it becomes a lot more moveable,” Wescoatt said.Beavers are one of the few mammals that can break down the components of wood. Beavers can do this because they have a special organ called a cecum. A cecum is a sac between the large and small intestine that digests the wood.”That is their entire ecology,” Wescoatt said. “Evolution has taught them to do this (take down trees).”
Benson lost a tree about two years ago. “I’ve wrapped my tree bases with chicken wire,” he said. “It seems to prevent them from gnawing.”Wescoatt Chicken wire is the best solution – just get the wire up around the trees at least three feet high, Wescoatt said, otherwise the beavers will be able to gnaw at the wood.Melanie McMichael laughed as she described a neighborhood where all the trees grow in their own chicken wire jails. “We’ve even doubled the cages over our aspens,” she said.It’s important to not nail or tie the chicken wire directly to the tree – attach the chicken wire to itself, otherwise the tree will be strangled, Wescoatt said. Beavers prefer hard woods, which is why the residents of Eagle River Estates are seeing aspen, apple and willows disappear, Wescoatt said.While beavers often build dams, Wescoatt said he hasn’t seen a dam near the subdivision or in the entire Eagle River for that matter. He said the beavers are probably just taking the wood for food and housing.Beavers may be a danger to the trees, but rarely threaten people, Wescoatt said.”Use common sense,” he said. “If you don’t bother it, it won’t bother you.”Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado CO