Beavers love eating wood and using it for their dams, but sometimes doing so infringes upon the fragile ecosystem near Plum Creek in Castle Rock, and humans have to push back.
A group of Boy Scouts and volunteers from the town's Parks, Open Space, Trails Partners program, or POST, converged on a section of Plum Creek at the south end of Perry Street a week ago to paint native trees to deter beavers from tearing them down to build more dams.
The mixture of paint and sand provides a gritty texture that is hard for beavers to chew through.
The protected trees will help stabilize soil and provide shade. The town hopes to extend the Plum Creek Trail near the area.
"We're trying to coexist with the beavers," said Barbara Spagnuolo, natural-resource specialist with the town. "They need trees for food and building materials. ... It's to strike a balance."
In the past, wiring or caging has been placed around the trees, but that often damages the trees and can injure other animals. Not all of the trees were painted; some were left for the beavers. The beavers' favorite trees are native species such as poplar, willow, cottonwood and aspen.
"It's fun, but you're also helping the environment," said Preston Smith, 12, part of Boy Scout Troop 765 from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Meadows. "How many times do you get to paint trees?"
Spagnuolo said it would cost the town $300 to $400 per tree to replace some of the larger downed trees, so it is also a cost-saving measure.
The boys were participating in the project for a citizenship-in-the-community merit badge.
"I thought it was a unique opportunity to do something for the community and get the boys involved in community service and also teach the boys something about the ecosystem in the area," Scoutmaster Jared Shifflet said.
Spagnuolo said about two years ago the town painted about 100 trees near the Fifth Street overpass and that it has been an effective deterrent.
Volunteers did not paint trees that looked unhealthy, such as having knots, or that were multitrunked.
The paint is an olive-gray color to match the trees, and the paint is applied about 3 feet up the trunks because that's about how tall beavers can stand.