View Full Version : A bit of a Beech tree mystery

spider solo
03-09-2005, 02:32 PM
I was snowshoeing..bush whacking in the woods today and came upon a few Beech trees where the bark was chewed off on the bottom. (neatly from snowline to about 18" above).
All the trees were in close proximity to each other. One of the trees was a nice big beautiful Beech..the bark had been chewed clean almost encircling it.
I know the tree will die if it is completeky girdled.
So any guesses what animal might feed on the bark of a Beech?
I've ruled out deer and Moose.
The only other clue I had was that I had been following a snowed over stone wall and though there were no prints I was wondering if the critter(s) might live in the wall.
What do you think ..mice.. squirrels... chipmunks... rabbits?

I have Oak & Beech trees on our property that never seem to get bothered,so it sure has me guessing.....

03-09-2005, 02:45 PM
The only thing I've seen girdle a larger tree close to the ground would be a porcupine or Beaver. Beaver only if in close proximity to water. Porky's usually strip the tops of softwoods. Rabbits can do damage to smaller trees, usually fruit trees.

03-09-2005, 11:08 PM
... in Grafton lakes St Pk. in NY. It did not look like a beaver had done it. Dozens of trees look like they are doomed.


spider solo
03-10-2005, 04:02 AM
It's a odd thing.
I have seen porcupine eating in trees before.
Yet this is down low...much the height that a beaver works....without the characteristic gnawing through that you usually see.
Having new snow and no tracks can set the mind to wondering......

03-10-2005, 08:46 AM
I have seen rabbits do this and especially on birch trees late in the winter when there has been extended snow cover. I remember seeing a large area, several yards square, of relatively small diameter trees and saplings totally ringed. I often saw rabbits here so I'm sure it was them as the rings never went very high up the trunk and usually were only 6-8" high.

03-11-2005, 04:16 PM
Sounds like porcupine work to me. My last home was on a heavily wooded lot. I had a porcupine set up residence in the neighborhood and he girdled numerous trees, all varieties. Beavers will go beyond the bark and heavily into the wood proper, if I'm not mistaken they have to constantly chew because of the rate that their teeth grow.

03-11-2005, 05:56 PM
When I first read this thread I was hoping it would be about the current (past few years/Decade?) situation with Beech Trees. I was told by a resident on the Blue Line that the Beech Trees have been blighted, and there have been no Beech Nuts. He was also discussing the effect of ice storms and late winters on Acorns; but I was unclear as to which condition was affecting the Beech nuts.

I searched a bit and found nothing. Does anyone have any info?


03-12-2005, 02:11 PM
Did you notice teeth marks? Porkies will leave fairly good-sized tooth marks, while rabbit will leave small or no marks. I would guess rabbit; 18" is about their height stretched out (or up) while a porkie would prolly climb for the more tender stuff higher up. Either way, it seems strange that they'd gnaw on a beech tree.

03-12-2005, 03:38 PM
I have taken several recent photos of chews on the beech trees. I don't recall seeing so much of it in the past but am seeing a lot of this on the young trees in a couple general areas this winter. I am assuming it is porcupine as they will chew on the young beeches. It looked like porcupine tracks but I didn't take a picture of the track. I'll try to get a shot of that soon.

a beech chew in Jan. (http://community.webshots.com/photo/293318107/293320704ZgTftF)

the same tree this week (http://community.webshots.com/photo/293320755/293320755XifLTk)

the upper branches of a tree in a different area (http://community.webshots.com/photo/293320850/293320850GMElOB)

I also added some photos of other recent wildlife activity to the same album (http://community.webshots.com/album/293318107TVusvk).

spider solo
03-12-2005, 06:09 PM
Those are exactly what it looks like and, of course, now that I noticed, I see the scars from past activities on the various Beeches as I do my hikes.
I never realized porcupines were so fond of them.

Great wildlife pictures... the owl was certainly keeping and eye on you !!

03-13-2005, 01:05 PM
Many creatures in addition to porkies will chew bark in winter. This includes some mice, who are quite capable of ring-barking a small tree (and have done so on occasion, in my yard). If they had been working under the snow (or on the surface as the snoe level changed, for that matter) this would explain the appearance and the lack of tracks.

Still, porcupine is the probable explanation. Paul Rezendes, in "Tracking and the Art of Seeing" (perhaps the best book ever written on the subject) says:

"When feeding on hardwoods such as beeches or sugar maples, they first chew of the piter bark and let rgw chunks fall to the ground, then they eat the living inner bark, or cambium...When a porcupine chews on a hardwood tree, its incisors leave a typical patchwork pattern on the inner bark."


spider solo
03-18-2005, 05:00 PM
Rondak46...mentioned a blight of the Beech Trees I too would be curious if there is some more info out there about it.
We have a good amount of the trees in this area yet I noticed for the 1st time last year when I found a beechnut that I had only seen maybe 3 or 4 .
I would think that much like the Oaks there should be hundreds if not thousands of nuts on the ground.
Oaks and Beeches are some of the last remaining mast trees that produce food . Chestnuts and Elms were blighted years ago ( though I don't know if Elms produced food)
Any arborist out there ??

03-18-2005, 07:12 PM
I don't know about the gnawed rings, but I do know beech scale is steadily wiping out the beech tree in North America. Beech scale has been migrating slowly westward for over a hundred years...most mature beech in the Northeast are now either infected or already dead. My brother and I had to turn a pair of 150-year-old beech into firewood, as they would have snapped and fallen into our Big Moose hunting camp.

The beech scale breach the bark and fungus works in, sapping the trees' nutrients. You'll find countless corpses, snapped off ten to twenty feet off the ground...these old trees are surrounded by young saplings that will grow, but eventually meet the same fate. The epidemic is likely unstoppable.

So enjoy these beautiful gray beauties while you can. They are vanishing.

03-19-2005, 01:53 AM
There is some hope for the Beech. A small percentage of the trees appear to be resistant to the Beech Scale insect. Just as a few of the American Elms are resistant to Dutch Elm Disease, and American Chestnuts are resistant to the blight.


The Forest Service, researchers in the US and Canada, and a host of individuals have searched out survivors and begun reforestation and breeding programs for resistance to these diseases.

There are other threats to the eastern forest trees: Butternut canker, Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, and the Asian Long Horned Beetle, not to mention global warming. :(

03-23-2005, 02:29 PM
I went back to get photos of the tracks that lead to the beech tree. I can follow the same pattern of tracks after each snow fall. The porcupine has a regular route. The waddle pattern and trough in the snow is what lead me to believe it is a porcupine.

tracks leading to beech tree (http://community.webshots.com/photo/293318107/303362833XJlgbI)

tracks and tree (http://community.webshots.com/photo/303362868/303362868RXBIXv)

spider solo
03-23-2005, 06:04 PM
Very nice you can see the prints and how it plows along !

03-25-2005, 06:00 PM
Hey Mr. Spider, check out http://www.bearcamptrackers.org/050109d.html. It should help verify the porky theory and also partially explain why my VFTT posting has been down this winter.

I saw a 30' high hemlock in Jericho, VT this winter that was totally consumed by a porky. Nothing left but a skeleton.

spider solo
03-26-2005, 06:29 AM
Nice pictures and link!
I sure have been wondering where you've been off to........(good bushwhackin season you know)

03-26-2005, 07:22 AM
stopher: Very enjoyable site!