Oak Tree and Squirrels
Can squirrels damage a tree enough so it looks like it is dead? One of my oak trees has very few leaves this year on the branches. Most leaves are small and there is a hole in an area where a limb had been removed before I lived here. Can this be caused by the squirrels. We have a lot of squirrels and birds in our area. Should I be getting this tree tested in case it is something more serious like oak wilt? I have a number of other oak trees that do not have this condition in my yard. Thank you so much.
Squirrel damage is usually very distinct, and does not fit that pattern of symptoms you have described in your question. Usually, squirrels girdle limbs and branches one at a time, causing a "flagging" of brown, dead leaves. This "flags" are isolated and scattered throughout the rest of the crown, that will look normal. The hole you described is probably heart rot, caused by decay inside of the tree that is contiguous with the old, pruned branch wound. Anytime you see this kind of decay in a tree, you should be concerned about the integrity of the tree and have an expert assess whether the tree poses a hazard. Finally, as for oak wilt - the symptoms you are describing do not resemble those of this disease. Carefully observe your trees for any sudden expression of wilting symptoms, and if you are suspicious I would employ the advice of a local expert to get a more definitive diagnosis.