The Northwoods oak trees, and the animals that live off them, are threatened by a disease that is slowly growing. That word from Vilas County conservation specialist Quita Sheehan.
Oak wilt is a deadly disease that was first identified in southern Wisconsin in 1944. Since that time, oak wilt has been making its way north, mainly through the transportation of oak firewood from region to region. She says last month the DNR released an updated map of where oak wilt is found and more spots were seen in Vilas county..
"...They've documented a number of areas across Vilas county and the furthest north in Vilas county is up around Conover and in the Boulder Junction area...."
Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is spread by beetles attracted to injured oaks primarily between April and July. The beetles spread the disease and it attacks and kills healthy trees and can spread to nearby trees through interconnected roots. The disease is a particularly serious problem for species in the red oak group such as northern red, northern pin and black oaks. Forest health specialists say don't trim your oaks in the warm weather months when the beetles are most active.
Sheehan says once infected, nothing can be done about it. She says the impacts go beyond just the trees...
"...We have a lot of oak here, so it will definitely change how our forests look up here and that will have a huge impact on wildlife. Think of all the acorn mast that oak trees produce that a lot of critters feed on...."
More information on oak wilt is on the DNR website.