Tree advice needed

I just bought a house and among the great trees there is a large pecan tree with one large dead branch. I have posted a picture:
http://scottmartin.net/temp/2005.07.08-10:52:34.jpg
The limb on the left is completely dead. There are no live branches coming from it, and fungus is growing on it. It has to come down, because if it falls, it might take out the fence and my neighbor's storage shed. My question is, is this tree salvagable without that limb? It seems to me that without that branch, most of the weight (two other live branches) will be on the right side of the tree. Will that be a problem? Will the tree immediately fall over in the other direction?
If I should cut off the dead branch, where should I cut it? It appears to be dead all the way to the main trunk, but I can't really be sure where the line is. Of course, if its length is just cut in half, the hazard disappears.
Thanks in advance to anyone who has any ideas. This is my first house and my first gardening endeavour, so I will probably be in here a lot.
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This is a huge endeavor for a first! I am not sure you realize how heavy that limb is. It can be hundreds of pounds of gangly, dead weight. I strongly urge you to call an arborist who will give you specific advice. You may have a County Extension Agent who specializes in arboriculture, if so he or she may diagnose and make recommendations for this tree. It absolutely can be saved, but you are going to have to give it support on the side with the live growth.
I really don't think you should go at it without consulting an arborist.
Victoria
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Thanks. That tells me a lot about what the problems are. I'm sure I could cut it down and haul it off (carefully); I've worked along those lines before, and I know how incredibly heavy those big branches can be. It's more about whether the tree would survive that removal, and it seems to me that there's a very good chance it wouldn't without some professionally-guided countermeasures.
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In any event, you remove dead trunks like that at the branch collar. Do a search on branch collar and you will easily be able to determine where to cut. I implore you to have an arborist take a look first.
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has done tree work for us. Mentioned one of my neighbors killed a few years ago cutting down a storm damaged tree. He said he knew about it because he finished the job for the widow.
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This tree has been severely topped in the past, leading to overall diminished health and eventually the loss of the leader. The back stem looks to be almost as far gone, and the healthiest branch is still truncated and problematic.
In addition, it appears the trunk flares have been buried under fill or perhaps just too much mulch.
Can the tree survive? Maybe, though not much of it looks viable. Certainly the loss of the dead portions would not cause the live parts to decline or fall over. Your best bet would be to remove the dead parts, excavate the root crown, and make sure the remaining root zone is well mulched (and irrigated, if you've been getting as little rain as we have). And cross your fingers, if you're the superstitious type.
But I'd recommend getting a replacement tree in the ground at the earliest opportunity. When that is depends on where you are; in Texas, we are best off planting in Fall, but more northern areas would do well to wait till Spring (but might be able to nurse a transplant along if it was planted now). Then, as the new tree develops, you can go ahead and finish the pecan removal, which looks somewhat inevitable to me. Or, as suggested, keep as much as is safe for wildlife habitat.
For a lesson in identifying hazardous trees and/or why topping is bad (among many other topics), please visit www.treesaregood.com
good luck, Keith Babberney ISA Certified Arborist #TX-236
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