130-year-old Live Oak trees at Auburn University have been deliberately poisoned and are beyond being saved according to the school. Luckily, an arrest has been made in the case.
Harvey Almorn Updyke, 62, has been charged with criminal mischief after applying “lethal amounts” of poison to trees at Toomer’s Corner, an area where fans and students typically gather after big game victories. The University became aware of the poisoning after a man called a radio show in Birmingham and confessed to applying the herbicide to the trees, after which the school took soil samples on January 28 and confirmed it.
“The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Alabama, because I live 30 miles away, and I poisoned the Toomer’s trees,” the caller told the radio show, according to the Associated Press.
The herbicide, known as Spike 80DF, or tebuthiuron, is typically used to kill trees, and according to the university there is little chance of saving them. But Gary Keever, an Auburn University professor of horticulture and a member of Auburn’s Tree Preservation Committee, said, “We are assessing the extent of the damage and proceeding as if we have a chance to save the trees.” He continued, “We are also focused on protecting the other trees and shrubs in Samford Park. At this level the impact could be much greater than just the oaks on the corner, as Spike moves through the soil to a wide area.”
Updyke is currently being held on a $50k bond, and according to the Opelika-Auburn News, he said he poisoned the oaks after Auburn students rolled the trees in 1983 to celebrate the death of Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
But University President Jay Gogue is encouraging students not to retaliate. “It is understandable to feel outrage in reaction to a malicious act of vandalism,” Gogue stated. “However, we should live up to the example we set in becoming national champions and the beliefs expressed in our Auburn Creed.”
It’s great that Gogue is trying to set an example during this tragedy, but we cannot believe that someone would intentionally kill these live oak trees, can you??