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Ohio Acorn Mast Survey Results

October 2, 2015
Ohio Valley Outdoors

COLUMBUS, OH - The 11th annual acorn mast survey was successfully completed on 38 Wildlife Areas throughout Ohio. Results showed that an average of 29.3% of white oaks and 41.3% of red oaks bore fruit this year (Table 1). White oak acorn production decreased on 30 (79%) Wildlife Areas compared to 2014 (Table 2). Similarly, most Wildlife Areas reported a decrease in red oak (n = 29; 76%) acorn production compared to the previous year (Table 3).

Overall, there was a 23.1% and 26.5% decrease for white and red oaks, respectively, in the number of trees bearing acorns in 2015 relative to 2014. Over the past 5 years, acorn production has oscillated from above to below average (Fig. 1). This year is a below average year for acorn mast production.

The mast survey procedure was modified during 2007 to provide an indication of acorn relative abundance on survey trees. In addition to determining presence or absence of acorns, observers estimated the percentage of each tree's crown that was covered with acorns. Average acorn crown coverage of white oaks was 4.9% this year as compared to 14.2% last fall (Table 4). Average acorn crown coverage of red oaks decreased as well, from 24.6% in 2014 to 9.6% this fall (Table 5). The acorn crop was well below average across the state. Both white and red oaks displayed moderately decreasing north-to-south latitudinal trends in the percentage of acorn producing trees (Fig. 2).

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. Furthermore, this information could be used by hunters to key in on particular areas to improve hunting success. This year's comparatively poor mast crop should translate to improved deer hunter success rates, particularly among archers.



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