Squirrels impacting live oak trees in Beaufort

By Jaime Dailey - bio | email

BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) - While driving down Ribaut Road, you can't help but admire the area's popular live oak trees, but these days many people are noticing their browning leaves. Michael Murphy, the owner of Preservation Tree Care, said it's happening all over the county.

"For many years we've investigated it and found squirrel damage has been the major cause," said Murphy. "We were concerned about it the first time we saw it and the ends of the branches where the tips were browned were girdled and the bark was missing. It was explained to us by naturalist that they are teething and need to chew on something."

He said the animals are killing the tree branches.

"As soon as the little bit of bark is missing from the tree, the outside ends of the branch will get less water and less nutrients," said Murphy.

He said it's happening so much this year because it's partly due to the hot summer.

"When you get a real high water requirement, the leaves need much more water when it is hot and they pull on the conductive tissue of the trees and they just can't get enough water, the ends of the branches die back," said Murphy.

He said some of it could also be from storm damage and because there are simply less trees these days for squirrels. While it's happening in areas all over the state, he doesn't believe it's a symptom of any sort of disease.

"We are fairly confident its not any of the major diseases that have been attacking trees in California and Texas. Those are the oak wilt and sudden oak disease," said Murphy.

But Murphy said he's keeping a close eye on the situation to keep these trees a popular Lowcountry attraction.

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