Monday, October 08, 2018

Mast Year

2017 was a mast year for acorns in New England. Because there were more acorns, squirrels were living large, got fat and reproduced well.  Which means that this year there are more squirrels for fewer acorns. They grow more desperate and have to go to riskier places, including roads, where they are getting run over in massive numbers this year. Lots of conversation in these parts about how many squirrels are getting killed.

Many squirrels taking risks suggests that squirrel predators should do well this year, but next year they in their turn will have slim pickings. One list of said predators includes: Hawks, owls, eagles, magpies, ravens, shrikes, skunks, weasels, martens, minks, badgers, wolverines, foxes, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, lynxes, cougars, black-footed ferrets, black and grizzly bears, domesticated cats and dogs, snakes of many sorts, possums, and humans. Hawks and coyotes are likely to be the big items here.  Lots of those others aren't common in NH. Plus cars.  Cars are a major predator here.

One of my first posts back in 2005 was about my theory of not hitting squirrels by trying to hit them. It seemed to work for years, but I was informed by a reader a few weeks ago that he had proven that the rule is not, er, infallible. So it's more in the nature of a guideline, like the Pirate Code.

And it emphatically does not work on chipmunks.


Christopher B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher B said...

...all trees have boom crops of seedlings some years and generate minimal crop other years. Temperature, rainfall, and predation do factor into the amount of crop, but they are not the central reason for "mast years", or years when an immense amount of tree-nuts are produced. The true reason for this phenomenon has baffled scientists for hundreds of years.

Genetics wins over the environment again.

james said...

I've taken the position that small critters are supposed to have "get out of the way quickly" as one of their core competencies. Mine are supposed to include "stay on the road" and "don't surprise other drivers." I drive accordingly, and in umpteen years of driving have only killed a squirrel and a bird (!!).

Deer are a whole other matter--there's not time to react much anyway. And cows have the right of way. (seriously)

Galen said...

Squirrels seeking acorns and investors reaching for yield. Splat.