The case of the missing acorns


Fascinating piece in today’s Washington Post about this year’s almost totally MIA acorn crop.  And they really don’t know the cause.  Time to take a stand on squirrels – to feed ’em, or to hell with ’em?


  1. No acorns here. Not feeding the grey squirrels, but I’ll put peanut butter out for the flying squirrels, if we have any. If the grey squirrels get it, so be it. But they’d better not eat (or rather shred for fun) my hydrangeas this year!

  2. A couple of weeks ago I called the local nature centre because I had a dead squirrel in my garden, and another dying out there. Nature centre said then that there has been a total failure of the acorn crop and that there are not enough other nuts or stuff to feed the grey squirrels or the flying squirrels, and that they have been squirrel feeding for some time. Since then I have seen only one or two little grey monsters in my garden, and I have decided to feed them because although they drive me nuts, I do enjoy them and would hate to have them disappear completely. Also, there are very few squirrel dreys in the trees in my neighbourhood, which probably points to some kind of population crash.

    I haven’t yet read the article because my roommate has not yet surrendered that part of the paper.

  3. I’m pretty much against artificially feeding wildlife – it just seems unnatural, and what about when you go away on a trip or move and the next person doesn’t follow suit? I don’t get why the Audobon Society sells feeders and bird seed and all that, maybe as a money-maker? I know we have messed with habitat and maybe it’s to mitigate, but in my garden I just try to plant stuff that the bees and birds can subsist on and then hope for the best. As for the squirrels, I hate when they dig up my seedlings and break my sunflowers and devastate my bulbs, but I can’t really blame them – they gotta eat! Weird about the acorn dearth, hope it’s not a sign of something really horrible, climate-wise.

  4. Feeding birds at a feeder is no more artificial than planting flowers to attract hummingbirds, bees etc. Nor is it any different than planting a crop to attract beneficial insects to the garden.

    If feeding birds is artificial then so is farming. We should all then go back to the cave (man cave here) and hunt and gather for our own survival.

    Which brings up a good point. When did man reach the level of being an artificial part of the environment? When we began dragging our wives around by the hair with one hand and club in the other, or when we released them into the work force?

    The (ugh: fire good, bird feeder bad) TROLL

  5. Plenty of acorns dropping from the black oaks that surround my yard in Northern California.
    For the last several weeks the yard has been declared a ‘hard hat’ area, making gardening under the oaks an ‘at your own risk’ endeavor.

    I wish the squirrels would harvest more of the acorns. It would make my spring time weeding chores so much easier.
    Those rooted in young acorns are a bear to pull out of the garden beds once established.

  6. Meh–some years I feed them, some I don’t. I like the look of those corn cobs hanging in the tree. I have three pecan trees in my backyard proper, though, and two I share with neighbors, so the little gray rats get plenty of food without my help.

    Squirrel populations go up and down, though, so I don’t read too much into how many there are ina particular year.

    As for artificially feeding the birds, it probably doesn’t have much impact one way or another on the balance of the ecosystem, but it does heighten people’s awareness of the diversity of backyard birds, thus heightening their awareness of bird populations in general, and that’s a very good thing. If we don’t know something is there to begin with, why would we be concerned about its decline?

    I say, “Feed away!”

  7. Our burr oaks produced plenty of acorns, just the white oaks that didn’t. no worries, they vary quite a bit from year to year. it was a very productive year for my black walnut.

    as for the squirrels…they are the equivalent of rats in our suburb!

  8. I know squirrel populations go up and down, and that we probably have had too many in the last couple of years, but there is something definitely offputting about finding dead or starving animals in the garden. I know I can’t, nor should I, save them all, but I don’t like what I have been seeing, so — feeders are deployed and this time I won’t be chasing those little villains out of them.

  9. I’m in Maryland and we have loads of acorns. I also have tons of squirrels and they all seem pretty fat and happy around here.

  10. I have the same experience as Angie – here in Md. our 20+ oaks are producing their usual acorns and the squirrels, as usual, think they own the place – looking in my front windows, drinking out of the dog’s bowl on the front deck and burying those acorns in my pots.
    Perhaps the population explosion of squirrels caused by recent acorn-abundant years is causing them all to be eaten quickly by too many squirrels this year. A sad, but entirely natural, mechanism of mother nature. We humans should take note – this phenomenon already befalls third world countries and is not far from our own door…..

  11. I have noticed the seeming absence of acorns here and in Boston where I go every week. The squirrels in our back yard have been diligently emptying the bird feeders of sunflower seeds but the birds seem to be getting enough.

    I just cleaned out the squirrel feeder and filled it but they find the bird feeders so much easier to get at.

    Anyone know if peanuts in the shell are okay for squirrels? The commercial squirrel feed mix has a few thrown in, but is too many peanuts bad for them? They seem to like cracked corn, too.

  12. We have many squirrels of all kinds near my southern michigan home, including oddly tame flying squirrels (I guess they’re used tot he city). They all eat all kinds of tree seeds, and seem willing to chow on whatever is available. We have had non-seeding years with our maples and elms (late spring frosts kills the flowers, hence, no seeds) which lead to increased squirrel damage to the garden, but normally the critters stick to any seed available. We feed them shelled peanuts in small quantities during low natural food periods. This seems to help control the squirrel tendancy to snack on garden bulbs and plants. I don’t think I could let a aquirrel starve, however, they do die of illnesses, etc. Seeing a dead or dying critter in a yard is not necesarily due to low food sources, and usually there are other plant food sources(such as bark stripping) they will resort to in a “famine.” available in the area

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