Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: How to Protect Plants from Beavers in the Region

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: How to Protect Plants from Beavers in the Region

Article excerpt

I received the following questions about beavers within the last month.


I live in central Alabama and have seen two road-killed beavers near wetlands since Christmas. Are beavers moving into this region the way armadillos and coyotes have in recent years?

Q: Five years ago, beavers lived along a small stream on my property near Columbia, S.C., but then disappeared.

Based on fresh cuttings, I deduce that they have returned. Also, I have some relatively large trees with bark missing around half the tree up to three feet above the ground but the cut area is not fresh. Did beavers do this earlier? Do I need to worry about the three dogwood trees I just planted?

A: The geographic range for beavers extends from northern Florida and Mexico to Alaska and Newfoundland. One reason for the appearance of beavers in many areas in the southern part of their geographic range is that their mating season starts in winter. The babies are born in spring and early summer. For most animals, mating season finds them moving around as they seek mates. When large mammals live near highways, road kill is a common by-product.

Beavers are the largest U.S. rodent and one of the most widespread North American mammals. Their numbers were drastically reduced during the period of over trapping from colonial times to the twentieth century, but small populations persisted throughout the country. Today, 6 to 12 million beavers are believed to exist in the wild. This may seem like a lot, but the comparative reduction in numbers is striking. One scientific estimate of beaver numbers in the 1700s was from 60 to 400 million. Beavers now appear to be on the rise in many regions and are continually populating new areas. They are not, however, physically expanding their range like armadillos and coyotes. They are simply becoming more common where they already occur.

A: Beavers eat plants, including tree bark. Old, scarred areas on large trees often indicate a history of interaction between beaver and tree when the tree was much younger. …

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