Water, Earth, Sky

Scott Shenk writes about the environment.

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Acorn drought bodes ill for wildlife

Some years, the acorns on the ground in the fall are so thick they crunch underfoot with every step. Here in the Fredericksburg area, and in much of the state, that’s not the case this year. While that may be a good thing for  raking leaves, it’s bad news for squirrels, turkeys, white-tailed deer, bears and other critters, says the Virginia Department of Forestry. According to a press release, the agency says the shortage this year is comparable to 2008, particularly with white-oak acorns.

Officials with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, it notes, “are concerned about a light crop because acorns are a preferred food for many wildlife species…  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.”

I’ve got a bunch of squirrels around my place in Spotsylvania, and I’m thinking that I’ll feed them this winter, in spite of the fact that they eat pretty much every piece of fruit that ripens on a few fruit trees by my garden, and raid my bird feeders. I know they’re hungry because two of them spend much of the day up on my deck, eating sunflower seeds that drop from one of the feeders.

Early on, there was speculation that the acorn drought is linked to the periodical cicada emergence over parts of the state in May and June, but experts say very light crops in areas not affected by the cicadas suggest that other factors are at work.  Cicadas lay eggs in the acorn-producing tips of branches, which wither and die. Read more of the VDOF story here.