The 2012 acorn mast survey conducted at 38 Ohio wildlife areas showed an increase in production from the previous year, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The acorn mast nearly matched the banner year of 2010. The overall number white oak trees producing acorns increased 36 percent from 2011, and the number of red oak trees producing acorns increased by 9 percent.

ODNR Division of Wildlife employees scanned the canopies of selected oak trees on 38 state wildlife areas to determine the percentage of trees that produced acorns and the relative size of the acorn crop. Thirty-two wildlife areas reported an increase in white oak acorn production, and 27 wildlife areas showed an increase in red oak acorn production. An average of 52 percent of white oak trees and 67 percent of red oak trees bore fruit in 2012. In 2011, 16 percent of white oak trees and 58 percent of red oak trees bore fruit.

“The fall of 2010 represented the highest percentage of fruit-bearing white and red oaks recorded over the past eight years,” said Suzie Prange, forest wildlife biologist with ODNR’s Division of Wildlife. “During the fall of 2012, a rebound occurred with the percentage of oaks producing fruit almost equaling the bumper crop of 2010.”

Ohio’s fall crop of acorns is an important food source for more than 90 forest wildlife species, and mast crop abundance can affect hunting plans. 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, these animals are more likely to feed near agricultural areas and forest edges. Acorn production is cyclical, with some trees producing acorns nearly every year, while others rarely produce. Wildlife prefer white oak acorns since red oak acorns contain a high amount of tannin and taste bitter.

ODNR’s Division of Wildlife is currently participating in a multi-state 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 a local and regional basis.

Image courtesy Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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