The Blog
Young Trees vs. Wily Beavers

One reason to plant trees is to help our native wildlife; but what should be done when the native wildlife kills your young trees?

At KIB we have been planting many trees for several years. Some plantings are along streams to help provide a healthy buffer near the bank—within 200 feet of the shore at normal flow. Since 2006 we have planted 465 trees on the banks of Fall Creek.

How should one find the appropriate balance between saving trees until their natural death and allowing nature to integrate the trees into the ecosystem?

The Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab at Marian University is home to a colony of beaver consisting of 4-6 individuals. According to Dr. David Benson, Director of the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab, they welcome their beavers, “They remind us that the landscape is in a constant state of flux – it’s a functioning landscape.  It isn’t just an assemblage of species like a botanical garden or zoo, things are happening. It’s a system.” When asked what they have done to protect young trees in the EcoLab, Dr. Benson said, “What we do is try to decide which trees we need to protect and which we will allow to be beaver food if they choose.”

We have installed wire cages around trees in the past, but the time and materials are expensive and there is no access to prune, mulch or weed the trees after the cages are installed. Our strategy this winter, with the help of a great group of volunteers on January 25, was to prune the lower branches of the susceptible trees and place a plastic trunk guard from the ground to four and a half feet high. We hope this will be an effective deterrent of beavers and allow access to maintain the trees.

We had a great group of volunteers who help us on January 25. We left some trees available for the colony, while protecting others.