Bark Beetle Epidemic Worsening

K2's Ophelia Young reports, 

Not larger than the tip of your pen, Bark Beetles have taken down tens of thousands of trees up and down the Rockies.  But the worst isn't over; the chance of the insects wiping out trees continues to grow.

"(It) lays it eggs over a course of a one-year life cycle, and it causes that tree to dry out and die," Nick Williams said.  Williams is a project forester with the Wyoming State Forestry Division. 

The epidemic is expected to worsen this summer when the beetles become active. 

"It's continuing on the same track," Williams said. 

In fact, in some parts of the state, the Wyoming Forestry Division says Bark Beetles have nearly eaten themselves out. 

"In the Snowy Range and the Wyoming Range. we can see they are eating out a lot of the bigger trees, and so the populations are declining there because they don't have as much food," Williams said.  "We can see that kind of devastation happen here on Casper Mountain." 

Williams said there is likely no end to this virus, without an end to our forests. 

"Because we haven't had much wildfires or thinning going on, Mountain Pine Beetles are able to do very well on Casper Mountain," Williams said.  "Without any mitigation measures, we will always be finding Mountain Pine Beetles."

And the Division said, though chemical sprays do exist, they don't want to resort to that.  Harmful chemicals could kill other creatures, taint the waters and, in general, tamper with Casper Mountain's ecosystem.

"They're kind of like a Band-Aid really," Williams said.  "That's not curing anything."

So the Division continues to ask Casper Mountain's residents to protect the mountain from both beetles and chemical sprays.

"The key here is to keep the pockets small, find them early and remove and do direct control of infested trees as soon as possible," Williams said.

The Division holds frequent workshops throughout the year to spot and remove infested trees.  Their next workshop will be held May 4th at 7pm in the Casper College Extension Center.