News & Information

News & Updates from the park

16

May 2019

KILCONA’S ENDANGERED TREES

Posted by / in Information /

Our hats are off to KPDC member and former Director, Ed Skomro!!

Ed loves Kilcona Park. He appreciates its rustic, rural quality. He often walks his dog in the on-leash area, checking the ponds for resident and migrating waterfowl, listening to songbirds, and keeping an eye open for deer, hare, beaver, muskrat, and other wildlife. Ed loves Kilcona’s aspen forest and its big old cottonwood trees. So, when he noticed that a resident beaver was felling cottonwoods again, he decided to do something. He’d seen this happen before and he knew he had to act quickly to prevent the loss of any more trees.

Ed took photos of the damage and contacted Kilcona Park Dog Club.

KPDC contacted the Park Superintendent and the City Naturalist. For years, the City’s solution to problem beavers has been to trap or shoot them. But howls of protest from Kilcona animal lovers has the club and the City exploring other options.

In the past week the City responded to Ed’s alert, banding ten of the most vulnerable trees with stucco wire. KPDC and the City plan to protect many other trees the same way. And while we’ve solved the problem in the short-term, Ed’s action got us thinking about the urgent need for Kilcona’s dog park community to protect our own share of Winnipeg’s endangered forest canopy.

Winnipeggers have never been more aware of the extent to which our urban forest is threatened. Almost a quarter of a million American elms, the largest population in North America, is at risk of being completely destroyed. The invasive emerald ash borer has devastated urban tree canopies wherever it has touched down. In Winnipeg, the borer and cottony ash psyllid (jumping tree lice) threaten to wipe out 350,000 green ash in the next decade, including those at Kilcona.

Imagine what our beautiful city will look like with a half million fewer trees!!

Ash canopy in 2006 and 2009 before and after emerald ash borer

But Ed reminds us that insects and beavers are not the only threat to Kilcona’s trees. As uncomfortable as it is to think about, our beloved fur children kill trees by peeing on them. In high-use dog parks like Kilcona, trees are really in trouble.  Over the past decade, most of the trees around the parking lot have died a slow death from dog urine poisoning.

Trees in Kilcona’s parking lot and play area – 2007

Dog urine is highly acidic. When dogs pee on trees, two things happen. Their urine seeps into the soil and causes severe damage to the roots. The acid in the urine eats through the bark – the tree’s protective barrier – into the cambium and wood. Repeated hits of urine create an “open wound” on the base on the tree which never has a chance to heal. With its defense system destroyed, the tree becomes susceptible to diseases, pests, dehydration and nutrient loss, and succumbs to a premature death.

Look around the base of Kilcona’s trees. Most of the damage is in the lower two feet of the trunk. Most trees are bleached white from urine. Many have deep fissures in their bark and cracks on the trunk. And on some, the bark has peeled off just above the ground.

Of course we’re not telling you to stop your dog from peeing at the park 😊. But you can do something to help. It’s simple! Redirect your dog whenever you see it heading for a tree.

KPDC will continue to explore other options to protect trees from dog urine poisoning.

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