North Country residents invited to participate in virtual hike challenge

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NORTH COUNTRY, N.Y. (WWTI) — The St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario organization is hosting a virtual hike challenge starting November 1.

According to the SLELO website, the challenge encourages residents to take a hike, and help combat the presence of the invasive forest pest called hemlock woolly adelgid at the same time. The organization explained that late fall and winter are ideal times of the year to spot the species since it forms a white woolly mass around its body.

Those interested in participating should fill out the form on the SLELO website and explain how they plan to participate, take the hike, check hemlock trees, and share a photo of their experience on Facebook using the #VirtualHikeChallege hashtag. Hikers can also report positive and negative observations on their mobile device through the organizations mobile app.

Any trail in the SLELO region can be visited as part of the challenge. Specific locations where hemlock trees are located can be found on their website, as well as a map of all of the trails available.

According to the organization, it’s critical to remove HWAs because of the damage they can cause hemlock trees. It’s important to protect the trees because they provide food and habitat for hundreds of forest species, help keep freshwater streams cool and clean, and help reduce soil erosion.

Residents can usually find hemlock trees growing along steep slopes and streams. HWAs are the white masses that grow along the branches at the base of the needles. The SLELO warns residents that there are other species that may look similar to the white masses including spider eggs, snow, pine snap, needleminer, oak skeletonizer, and bird poop.

The challenge will be open to the public until March 31. Those who participate and post thir experience to Facebook will have the chance to recieve prizes. More information on the challenge can be found on the SLELO website.

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