The 2013 Ohio acorn mast survey conducted at 36 wildlife areas showed a decrease in production from the previous year, 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.
The overall number of white oak trees producing acorns decreased 30 percent after an almost banner year in 2012, and the number of red oak trees producing acorns decreased by 32 percent.
Hunters can expect to find 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. Acorn production is cyclical, with some trees producing acorns nearly every year, and others rarely producing. Wildlife prefer white oak acorns because red oak acorns contain a high amount of tannin and taste bitter.
ODNR Division of Wildlife employees scanned the canopies of selected oak trees on 36 state wildlife areas to determine the percentage of trees that produced acorns and the relative size of the acorn crop. An average of 21 percent of white oak trees and 34 percent of red oak trees bore fruit in 2013. Thirty-three wildlife areas reported a decrease in white oak acorn production, and 31 wildlife areas showed a decrease in red oak acorn production. In 2012, 52 percent of white oak trees and 67 percent of red oak trees bore fruit, nearly matching the exceptional production in 2010.
Although the 2013 survey shows acorn mast production is below average, it has oscillated during the past five years. Anecdotal reports of above average crops of walnuts, hickories and beech nuts may offset the acorn decline in 2013. Hunters may find this information online at bit.ly/2013fallohioacornresults/.
The ODNR 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.
Logo courtesy Ohio Department of Natural Resources