In an unprecedented move, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is temporarily closing Rocky Arbor State Park near Wisconsin Dells because of an infestation of gypsy moths, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
The park closed Monday (June 18) and will remain closed at least through June 27, according to DNR officials. During that period, moths in the park will be going through the pupation stage, a time in their life cycle when the invasive caterpillars seek hiding places where they can change to moths.
About 95 campground reservations are affected at the 225-acre park, and state park officials have contacted campers to offer alternative sites or to provide a refund. Rocky Arbor, established in 1932, is a secluded park known for its 500-million-year-old rock formations.
The agency’s gypsy moth experts said closing the park will help stop caterpillars from hitchhiking on vehicles and trailers and unknowingly being transported to areas where there is no infestation.
Closing a state park because of a gypsy moth infestation is rare and may never have been done before, according to DNR spokeswoman Erin Celello. But the moths are so numerous at the park that camping there would be unpleasant, according to agency experts.
“There are also health and safety considerations that prompted our action,” said Mark Guthmiller, DNR gypsy moth suppression coordinator.
Guthmiller said caterpillars in the park are so numerous that allergic reactions among some people are possible. He added that “related sanitation issues” would “significantly detract from the quality park camping experience.”
The gypsy moth is an invasive species native to Europe, Asia and North Africa as silk-breeding caterpillars. They’ve proven to be extremely damaging to forest and shade trees in the eastern and central U.S.