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.
|Winter 2007-08||Poor Crop||4.9"||Below Average Snow|
|Winter 2008-09||Poor Crop||1.5"||Below Average Snow|
|Winter 2009-10||Average Crop||43.1||Above Average Snow|
|Winter 2010-11||Above Average Crop||10.4"||Below Average Snow|
|Winter 2011-12||Average Crop||6.1"||Below Average Snow|
|Winter 2012-13||Above Average Crop||18.3"||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.