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Ohio’s Fall Acorn Crop Reported

October 9, 2017
ODNR

COLUMBUS, OH - The 2017 acorn mast survey conducted on 37 wildlife areas throughout Ohio shows a below average year for white oaks and above average red oak acorn production, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Ohio's fall crop of acorns is an important food source for more than 90 forest wildlife species, and mast crop abundance can influence hunting plans.

ODNR Division of Wildlife employees scanned the canopies of selected oak trees on wildlife areas to determine the percentage of trees that produced acorns and the relative size of the acorn crop.

Results showed that an average of 29 percent of white oaks and 57 percent of red oaks bore fruit this year. Over the past five years, acorn production has oscillated from above to below average, and this year red oaks were just above the 13-year average, while white oaks remained below average for the third year in a row.

Article Photos

Results showed that an average of 29 percent of white oaks and 57 percent of red oaks bore fruit this year. Photo courtesy of Metro Creative

In addition to determining the presence or absence of acorns, observers estimated the percentage of each tree's crown that was covered with acorns. For 2017 average crown coverage of acorns for white oaks was just over 7 percent. Average crown coverage of acorns for red oaks was 21 percent this fall. Average crown coverage this year remained well below average for white oaks, while reds were slightly above average.

Wildlife prefer white oak acorns because red oak acorns contain a high amount of tannin and taste bitter. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and squirrels concentrated near areas with heavy crops of white and chestnut oak acorns. In areas with poor acorn production, these animals are more likely to feed near agricultural areas and forest edges.

Past years with poor acorn production has translated to improved deer hunter success rates, particularly among archery hunters. This year's poor white oak mast crop will likely cause deer to spend more time searching for food in areas where white oaks dominate. Conversely, the above average red oak mast crop could lower hunter success in areas dominated by red oaks.

Acorns are an important food source for many forest wildlife species. Numerous studies have linked the abundance of acorn mast crops to body condition, winter survival, and reproductive success of wildlife including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bears, gray squirrels and ruffed grouse.

This is the 13th year the ODNR Division of Wildlife has completed the acorn mast survey.

The results, including tables and historical numbers, can be found at: wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/portals/wildlife/pdfs/research/2017 acorn mast survey.pdf

 
 

 

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