Dead or dying trees in a forest serve as homes for a multitude of wildlife such as woodpeckers, dead or dying trees in yards destroy or damage homes. Trees do not die overnight. It could take years for a tree to fully die, or it could take months. The outcome, however, is always the same. Because dead trees no longer take in water and nutrients, they eventually become dry and brittle.
All it takes to turn a previously creepy but innocuous dead tree into a hazard is a strong gust of wind. That is why it is important that you either remove the tree or hire an arborist to remove its branches.
Assess the Location of the Dead Tree
Not all dead trees have to be removed. Provided the tree is located somewhere on your property where there are no buildings or neighbouring properties, you could keep it. Australian animals such as possums, cockatoos and owls prefer to nest in the hollows of dead trees so you could keep the dead tree for this reason.
However, if the dead tree is in close proximity to your home, fence, utility lines or a nearby footpath, the sooner you have the tree removed, the better. Falling branches, referred to by loggers as "widowmakers", will soon become a problem once a dead tree dries out and can no longer support heavy branches.
Examine the Tree for Danger Signs
Some dead trees can stand for years without posing much of a threat to the surrounding area. However, in most cases, due to a combination of structural defects, wood-boring insects, and the loss of liquid within the tree, a dead tree is a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment.
When examining your dead tree, look for hollows in the trunk. These weaken the trunk and could result in the tree snapping and falling over in high winds. Also look for heavy branches. A dead tree cannot support large branches and eventually, even a bird landing on such a branch could cause it to snap and fall to the ground below. Dead trees may also lean due to the weakening of their roots.
A leaning tree is only going to go one way. It is a matter of "when" not "if".
If your yard or lawn contains a dead tree, hire an arborist to remove it, or at the very least, remove the branches. You could even keep the tree after an arborist has cut it down and provided you have enough land, place it somewhere in your yard to serve as a home for wildlife.