Warning to Wisconsin hunters: Dead and dying ash trees may be too weak for tree stands

MADISON, Wis. — State forest health specialists caution hunters to avoid placing tree stands in or near weakened ash trees, especially in the southern half of Wisconsin and the Mississippi River counties.

Wisconsin DNR experts say many ash trees in southern counties are dead or dying from attack by the emerald ash borer and may unexpectedly drop large branches – or even snap, especially under the weight of an occupied tree stand.

“Infested or dead ash trees are not as structurally strong as healthy trees, so they are not a good place to put a deer stand,” DNR forest health specialist Bill McNee said. “At this time of year, it can be hard to tell if a tree is infested by the emerald ash borer. As a precaution, put your stand in another type of tree that will be structurally stronger.”

Falls from tree stands are a leading cause of serious injury for hunters. The 2016 Wildlife Society research showed ‘the most avid hunters’ face a 1-in-20 risk of getting hurt in a fall from a tree stand. In addition to practicing tree stand safety rules, hunters are encouraged to check the health of a tree before assuming it is strong enough to support the hunter in a tree stand.

McNee also urges hunters to be careful around ash trees when on the ground, especially in windy conditions.

Hunters can play a role in slowing the spread of the emerald ash borer. Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR Invasive Forest Pest Program coordinator, said: “If you’re planning to have a fire at your hunting area get your firewood nearby. Wood you bring with you from a longer distance may already be infested with the ash borer, oak wilt or other harmful pests and raises the risk of spreading an infestation to healthy trees.

For information about known emerald ash borer infestations, moving firewood and identifying ash trees, click here. To review tree stand safety tips, click here.

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