The 2015 Ohio acorn mast survey conducted at 38 wildlife areas showed a decrease in production from 2014, 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.
ODNR Division of Wildlife employees scanned the canopies of selected oak trees on wildlife areas to determine the percentage of trees that produced acorns and the relative size of the acorn crop.
Results showed that an average of 29 percent white oaks and 41 percent red oaks bore fruit in 2015. This is a decrease in the production from 2014. Over the past five years, acorn production has oscillated from above to below average, and this year is a below average year for acorn mast production.
Overall, there was a 23 percent and 26 percent decrease for white and red oaks, respectively, in the number of trees bearing acorns in 2015 relative to 2014.
Wildlife prefer white oak acorns because red oak acorns contain a high amount of tannin and taste bitter. 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.
This year’s comparatively poor mast crop should translate to improved deer hunter success rates, particularly among archers, because deer will be more actively searching for food.
Acorns are an important food source for many forest wildlife species. Numerous studies have linked the abundance of acorn mast crops to body condition, winter survival, and reproductive success of wildlife including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bears, gray squirrels, and ruffed grouse.
Acorn production is cyclical, with some trees producing acorns nearly every year, and others rarely producing.
This is the 11th year the ODNR Division of Wildlife has completed the acorn mast survey.
The results, including tables and historical numbers, can be found at: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/portals/wildlife/pdfs/research/2015 acorn mast survey.pdf