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Invasive species reaches Canada for the first time

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For the first time, an invasive species that targets oak trees has made its way to Canada.

Called ‘oak wilt,’ the fungal disease was recently found for the first time ever in Canada last week in Niagara Falls.

"Thankfully we caught it, management options to stop it from coming to the rest of the province," said David Dutkiewicz of the Invasive Species Centre.

For years, oak wilt had been an issue south of the border, appearing in 24 states from Texas to the eastern seaboard. It can be especially harmful to red oak.

Canadian officials said they are taking the incident very seriously.

"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is going to be doing monitoring and surveying to make sure that there aren’t any other trees affected by oak wilt,” Dutkiewicz said.

“As well as the Ministry of Natural Resources is going to do some flyover checks to make sure that there aren’t any more dead oaks in the area."

It’s not known how the fungal disease made it to Canada, but officials know if left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on an ecosystem.

"Oak wilt can actually kill a tree in a matter of weeks or months," Dutkiewicz said.

Oak wilt can appear as leaves turning yellow or brown, wilting foliage, premature leaf fall, vertical bark cracks or fungal mats beneath the bark.

The fungus is often spread from sap beetles.

"Sap beetles tend to be attracted to the fungus that’s in the tree,” Dutkiewicz said.

“They go to the tree, get infested by the fungus and travel to a new tree."

Experts say knowing the signs of oak wilt is critical in preventing it’s spread to other areas. They also urge the public to not move firewood or prune oak trees from April to October.

Sightings of oak wilt should be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or the invasive species hotline

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