The Slip Wire Tree Wrapping Techinque – Beaver Management

In the year 2,000, with funding provided by TransAlta Corporation, and some supplies from some local business, Bow Valley Habitat Development wrapped 350 cottonwoods on Jumpingpound Creek. The program goal was to protect some of the remaining stands of native cottonwood trees, along the entire course of the JP Creek. The quickly vanishing riparian habitat along area streams has resulted in significant loss of native mature cottonwoods. The design of the slip wire method of wrapping trees with heavy wire mesh was created specifically for this program, by Guy Woods, Director of Bow Valley Habitat Development.

Portions of this article are copied from the report:

Jumpingpound Creek Riparian Protection and Enhancement Project – Tree Wrapping Program, |Jumpingpound Creek 2000 Fisheries Project|, TransAlta Corporation. May 12th, 2001. Report prepared by Guy Woods and submitted to TransAlta.

The tree wrapping occurred on areas of the CL Ranch, south of the Trans Canada Highway, downstream to the private property, near the mouth on the Bow River. In the spring of 2013 an assessment of the tree wrapping was completed and some photos that were taken during that inspection are used in this article.

This photo was taken in 2013, 12 years after the tree wrapping program was completed. You can see from this photo how the slip wire has allowed the wrap of chicken wire to expand for a distance of 12 years of growth. The bark has grown around the fence staple, but the wire still will slide thru over time.

The whole idea of this method of using a slip wire loop to hold the wire mesh in place and also allow the tree to grow thru the years, has proven successful. The type of heavy mesh used for chicken wire has changed since this particular use in the turn of the millennia. Now, chicken wire is really thin and it is impossible to find the heavy stuff anymore, so a square mesh that is galvanized is the new choice. My recommendations are to use the 2 inch square mesh. The slip wire technique will still work perfectly good.

You can see that the loop wires are attached to the overlapping end of the wire mesh. Then a fence staple is placed over one side of the loop and the mesh underneath the wrap. This will allow the mesh to be firmly attached to the tree, top and bottom, and allow the loop slip wire to slide over the years. The loop is then woven in a straight line around the tree, to allow the wire to freely slip as the tree grows and demands more of the slip wire loop.

The loop weaving must be done in a fashion that allows the loop to slide easily, so you try to keep it in a straight weave with no kinks.

You can see that one side of the loop is under the staple and the mesh as well. This allows the wire loop to slide.
This 2013 photo shows how a triple trunk cottonwood that was wrapped with the slip wire technique in the year 2000, is still intact. The wire has been expanding as the three trunks grow.
The close up of the wire over the beaver damage on this trunk will confirm that the wire mesh is doing its job. The beaver damage was fresh when we wrapped the trees.

The tree wrapping team consisted of two assistants and myself. I was trying to find the records of time invested but they seen to have disappeared with time. It is hard work, if you are planning on wrapping a lot of trees. Since that first use of the slip wire technique, I have given workshops on this method, with Branches and Banks of Cochrane and the World Youth Program, along with staff from the town of Cochrane. It is worthwhile to do a good job of tree wrapping, especially if your mature planted trees are at risk, or there are native cottonwoods at stake.

This wrapped cottonwood tree was completed 12 years earlier. The wire was placed tightly on the tree when the slip wire wrapping took place, in 2000.

The mesh must be at least one metre in height. Once secured, the mesh will protect the tree for many years.

The amount of overlap required on each tree varies, so you have to measure the circumference of the tree, allow for tree growth, so you may wish to leave half the half the circumference in overlap. This means you add half the circumference to the full measurement, to figure out overlap. So if the tree has a circumference of 30 inches, just add 15 inches for overlap and this will be the length of the mesh that you need to cut. A length of 45 inches. The slip wires for the loops will have to be double the length of the overlap and add 4 inches for twisting the wire ends together to form a loop. So, based on an overlap of 15 inches, the wire should measure 30 inches, plus 4 inches, makes 34 inches. Cut three lengths of the wire for the required three loops.

The fence staples should be standard fence post size. The majority of the staples length will be going thru a thick covering of tree bark. On cottonwoods, this bark is pretty thick on the more mature trees.

Since this large cottonwood was wrapped with mesh, in our wrapping program on the JP Creek, the floods have washed some heavy timber up around the base. However, beavers will not venture up onto the wood, they prefer terra firma for their chewing platform. Despite the floods the wire has stayed in place for 12 years, so far. The wire mesh should be 1 metre in height, so make sure your mesh is tall enough too.
My two assistants, wrapping trees on the Jumpingpound Creek in 2000. Stopping briefly, to enjoy the wildlife that frequents the creek. They are installing the slip wires on the tree to the left. The one to the right has the wire mesh on it, but it is not secured yet. These cottonwoods stands really make up the major part of riparian habitat in some areas and their beauty is irreplaceable.
Some times you need to get into the water to do the job right.