Dealing with a dead tree

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We’ve seen lots of oaks die in this past year.

But what to do with dead trees? You can cut it down. You can hire someone to remove it. Or if you have plenty of land around it, you can leave it to benefit wildlife.

Felling your own tree can be very rewarding. Done wrong, it can ruin a good day with damage to property and cause serious or fatal injury to the cutter or bystanders.

There are several places to learn how to properly and safely cut trees. Be sure to examine your surroundings and have an escape route for you to take if the tree doesn’t fall as planned.

There are two crucial cuts to properly fell a tree: an undercut and a back cut.

Your first cut is your undercut. The undercut serves as the guiding or aiming slot for the tree. Basically, it is a V-shaped notch placed on the side of the tree in the direction of the desired fall. For trees that are essentially straight, the depth of the undercut should be about one-fourth of the tree’s diameter.

Only after you have a properly executed undercut should you start with your back cut. The back cut will ultimately fell the tree.

The back cut is made on the opposite side of the tree, slightly above the hinge point of the undercut. The back cut releases the stresses on the back of the tree, allowing the tree to fall. Never make the back cut lower than the undercut because that reverses the roles of the two cuts. Never cut through the undercut because that will cause you to lose all control over the tree.

If this makes you too nervous or unsettled, stop and call a tree service company.

If you have a leaning tree, stop and call a tree service company.

If you have power lines nearby, stop and call a tree service company.

If the fall of the tree is too close to any structures, stop and call a tree service company.

We are blessed with at least eight local businesses that offer tree removal service. Be sure to ask for reference and as around before hiring.

Additionally, be sure to ask if they are insured against personal and property damage. Even experienced tree service businesses have had trees fall in the wrong place.

Lastly, if you have some acreage and if there is plenty of space around it, you can leave it for the wildlife. If there is plenty of space around it where, when it does fall, it won’t bother anything,

Many folks have difficulty understanding the value that trees have for wildlife, especially dead trees. Yet they do have special value for several species.

Some people believe leaving dead trees in the forest to rot is a waste of resources. However, dead trees offer both shelter and food to many wildlife species. Dead trees and their limbs are a natural and desirable part of wildlife habitat.

The existence of numerous species depends on the presence of dead trees. A fallen tree becomes infested with fungi and insects. As the tree decomposes, nutrients are recycled into the soil and a microhabitat favorable for the growth of new tree seedlings is often created.

My friend Greg Grant is intentional about leaving standing dead trees in the woods on his small acreage. One of his passions is birding and by leaving a couple of snags in the woods, he feels he is encouraging a variety of birds.

I hate that we’ve had so many trees die this past year but let’s safely remove them or even consider leaving them to benefit wildlife.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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