ANIMAL IMPACT

Deer and bear are most certainly impacted by the lack of acorns this year, and have been seen coming out into the public eye in search for food. However, the smaller animals such as the squirrel are often impacted most by the shortage.

"Squirrels have a much smaller home range than deer, in the order of several acres. If they can't find food, they'll starve. So what you see is squirrels that almost migrate. They just get moving looking for food. "

Acorns are rich in fat, soluble carbohydrates and energy, which are important nutritional needs that contribute to the animal’s body condition, survival, harvest rates, reproduction and, eventually, population status.

The roaming range of black bear and wild turkey can increase dramatically  in years with mast failures, and long-range gray squirrel movement can be significant as they search for acorns.

Fortunately, other food sources such as hickory nuts and persimmons have been abundant in the forests this year.

SIGN OF THE UPCOMING WINTER

For centuries it was thought that trees may have predictive powers, suggesting the more acorns that developed, the snowier and colder the winter would be.

With advanced weather forecasting, this has proven to be a poor assumption on many occasions. 

Below is a table comparing the seasonal acorn crop count for Virginia and the amount of snow measured during the following winter at the Roanoke Regional Airport.

Acorn SeasonSnowfall
(Avg. 17.6")
Winter 2007-08Poor Crop4.9"Below Average Snow
Winter 2008-09Poor Crop1.5"Below Average Snow
Winter 2009-10Average Crop43.1Above Average Snow
Winter 2010-11Above Average Crop10.4"Below Average Snow
Winter 2011-12Average Crop6.1"Below Average Snow
Winter 2012-13Above Average Crop18.3"Average Snow

As you can see there's little correlation between the years with high acorn counts and snowy winters. In fact, the two of our recent snowy winters had poor to average acorn crops leading up to the above average snow years.