Thursday, December 04, 2008
Got acorns? Mostly no
Roundtop Mtn. has that pre-snowfall, post-November gloomy look to it this morning. Clouds darken the sky and everything has that same flat shade of bark brown. Four deer stood among the trees this morning just off the road, and I almost didn’t see them. They were exactly the same shade of brown as the trees.
Locally, I’ve heard a sudden concern over a lack of acorns. So far, biologists are just starting to realize that this isn’t a local event but something that’s being seen pretty commonly throughout many areas of the country. No one seems to know what is causing it. Some say a wet spring is the culprit. Some say it’s just a normal low-end of the acorn cycle. Some fear climate change.
I don’t have many acorns either, though I had some. I do know that oaks, even when they drop acorns, don’t commonly produce viable seedlings from those acorns. It can be 15-20 years, I’ve read, before you reach a season that results in many new oak seedlings.
Some people are worried the squirrels will starve to death. I can’t see that happening here. I see squirrels every day carrying huge walnuts from one side of the road to the other. They seem to be finding plenty of those. I haven’t seen many hickory nuts this year, which in my part of the woods seems even more noticeable than the lack of acorns.
Deer rely heavily on such nuts during winter, and if any animal is going to be hurt by the lack of nuts, I expect it will be the deer. This would be especially true if the winter turns out to be a severe one, which I’m still thinking is a possibility. With no moderating influences from El Nino or La Nina this year, a severe or at least a normal winter wouldn’t surprise me. And in fact, both the summer and fall here have tended toward cooler rather than warmer temperatures.
In any event, for the moment, noticing the lack of acorns and other nuts is the first step towards finding out what there aren’t many. This is something I expect we will learn more about as more people investigate. For now, the squirrels are busy emptying my bird feeders, and the deer are enjoying the apples I throw out for them. I’m doing my part to see they make it through the winter, acorns or no.