Ohio's fall crop of acorns is variable this year, but will provide a vital food source for more than 90 forest wildlife species. Overall, white oak acorn production is similar to last year but varies by region, while red oak acorn production declined by 57 percent over 2007 figures, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
"Good white oak acorn production was observed on some wildlife areas in northern and southern Ohio, but white oak acorns were much less abundant across central Ohio." said Mike Reynolds, forest wildlife biologist with the division. "Red oak acorn production declined statewide this year."
The Division of Wildlife is currently participating in a multi-state, on-going research project to estimate regional acorn production throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Wildlife biologists hope to use the acorn production information gathered in the study to forecast wildlife harvest and reproductive success rates on both a local and regional basis.
Acorn production is cyclical, with some trees producing acorns nearly every year, while others rarely ever produce. This year, Division of Wildlife employees scanned the canopies of selected oak trees on 38 wildlife areas in the state to determine the percentage of trees that produced acorns and the relative size of the acorn crop. Results varied regionally, but an average of 42 percent of white oak trees and 30 percent of red oak trees bore fruit this year. Wildlife prefer white oak acorns, because red oak acorns contain a high amount of tannin and are bitter in taste.
Mast crop abundance can affect hunting plans as well. Hunters can expect to find deer, wild turkeys and squirrels concentrated near areas with heavy crops of white and chestnut oak acorns this fall. In areas with poor acorn production, wildlife are more likely to be feeding around agricultural areas and forest edges.