Beavers, Oak Trees, and Lumber

What can a landowner do with beaver-killed Oak trees? February 29, 2012

I am a very amateur woodworker who recently purchased a home on seventeen acres of heavily wooded land. I hope at some point to fulfill my dream of purchasing a portable saw mill and milling my own lumber from my own trees. A mill is not within my immediate financial grasp, however, and I find myself faced with some immediate challenges.

My property is surrounded on three sides by a river populated with some very active beavers. Theyíre knocking down beautiful oak trees at an astounding rate. I hope this month to take steps to prevent further damage. Even if I stop them completely, I have dozens of oak trees that have been killed.

Many of these oaks are more than a foot in diameter. Quite a few trunks go (went?) straight up for 30 feet without branches. They look like theyíd make lovely lumber! Iíd hate to see them just cut up for firewood. Please donít ask what kind of oak, as Iím not sure. Iím hoping to identify them as the leaves come out this spring on the adjacent trees.

First, how long after a beaver rings and kills a tree is it likely to be okay to mill into lumber? I have trees on the ground and hung up in other trees that have been dead from this year, to many years in the past. Will it still be useable as firewood? At what point is it good for nothing?

Is there a market for these logs? Much as I would love to mill them myself, I just canít afford a mill right now. It occurs to me I might be able to sell logs and use the money to buy a mill.

How can I protect my living oak trees from beavers? Trapping and killing is not really an option, as I will simply be creating a void in the river for the next generation for beavers to fill. They have lodges every mile or two on the river, and I know any beavers I eliminate will quickly be replaced. I plan on placing 4í wire fencing around each tree Iíd like to protect. But I have a lot of trees!

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
It is time to start making some beaver tail soup. You would have to wrap every tree with metal fencing material.

The dead trees will be good for some uses for years after being killed. However in some places you can not remove trees within 100 ft of a waterway. You will need to check on that. Here if a tree is on your property and it falls into the river, it has to be left in the river.

The ringed trees will keep better if left standing till you are ready to saw the log into lumber or firewood. Be very careful when felling dead trees as they are more prone to "barber chair" and trees hung in others are very dangerous to take down.

From contributor B:
I would recommend using the wood for anything before it rots, even firewood as a last resort; it is mighty easy to sell oak firewood and, like you said, you could use that money to get a mill. Keep the fresh logs for milling, use the old stuff for making some cash. You can sell the logs alright, but that requires you to move them around - easier said than done. And let the fool beavers do what they do; they will thrive (as they are now) and fail as time goes along, just work around them. I guess you could ask your local fish and wildlife department about a natural deterrent.

From contributor P:
I think it would be tough to actually end up with any money selling the fallen trees as saw logs, unless you let the loggers cut additional trees. Usually loggers would need a significant volume of logs to justify making a log yard and moving in all their equipment. Also, while white oak is fairly rot resistant, red oak is not. It loses value quickly sitting there in the woods after being cut. Cutting it up into firewood is something you can do with just a chainsaw and maul. Just protect the good trees with the fencing and salvage what you can of the downed trees as firewood.

From contributor S:
In this state if you have a beaver problem you can have the state (owner of the beavers) come and trap them out. Just saying.

Maybe you could give the trees to a mobile sawyer and get half the wood?

From contributor W:
Are you sure they're oaks?

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Sometimes your county forester can assist you with both getting the logs to a mill site legally and safely and controlling beavers.

Lumber quality is the best now and will become less as each warm month passes. If you do make logs, end coat them well. If you can get a mobile sawyer, you will also have a good opportunity to learn about sawing.

Now is the time to buy a mill as prices, especially used, are good. But get a knowledgeable person to help you so you do not get junk or equipment that is not right for you.

From contributor H:
You have some very discriminating beavers. They usually don't like oak. Call the game commission.

From contributor C:
If you think the beavers will come back strong each year, take up trapping in the winter as a source of funds, control the population (within reason), and maybe get a more intimate understanding of your land and its inhabitants all at the same time.

From the original questioner:
Thanks! I donít think killing or trapping the beavers is a permanent solution. There are just too many of them on the river! I think a systematic campaign of protecting trees with fencing will have to be my solution. I will contact the local game warden and see what can be done.

Yes, I am sure they are oaks. Iím not sure what kind but will make an effort this summer to identify what I have and see what they favor. Iím afraid oak are a weak spot in my tree identification skills which I hope to remedy. The beavers love my birches as well. They donít touch the red maples that are scattered amongst the oaks. Theyíve taken down one red pine and even eaten some of the bark off it, but have left the rest of my evergreens alone.

How do I tell if a log is too old to be cut into lumber? With so many felled trees it makes sense to start cutting the older stuff into firewood first. How can I store logs intended for milling? I was thinking of cutting the logs to ten foot lengths and stacking them on a couple of older logs placed on the ground. Sounds like I should paint the ends?

I can see moving the logs is going to be a real challenge. Perhaps just getting them off the ground on a couple of shorter logs in their present location will be a good startÖ At the very worst theyíll last longer and can be turned into firewood.

From contributor S:
Up on other logs is better than sitting on the ground for sure.

When dealing with possible rotten with conifers, loggers bore the trees with their chainsaw looking for the point where there is solid wood (bright chips). Don't know that that is a good thing when spalted wood brings a premium.

The sapwood on the white oaks tends to rot first and become bug infested, but the heartwood can be sound. Just pick a point to start sawing and make a cut. Again you're looking for bright chips and you can feel the hardness of the wood through the chainsaw feel/rate of cut.

Looking at a fresh cut end should give you a pretty good idea if the wood is sound enough to saw. Your other choice is firewood, so no loss other than time. Make a cut and see what you've got.