Colder temperatures and the chance to see our first snowflakes of the year this weekend have everyone asking, “what’s the Winter going to be like?” Well maybe we need to look no further then to some furry friends for the answer.
Yes, every year for about a decade I’ve watched squirrels and counted acorns for clues as to what the upcoming Winter holds.
Here’s a little background on how I came up with it.
About a decade ago, I was pruning my pin oak trees and noticed there were no acorns, not one on any of the branches. These are well established, healthy trees. I thought it weird because I had never seen the trees not produce acorns. I did notice an overabundance of walnuts and large hedge apples. The hedge apples were greater than 3 inches in diameter, big enough for a squirrel to find them in light snow cover. Anyway, someone told me pin oaks only produce acorns every other year. So, I thought that might be why I didn’t have any acorns. But I could never remember an August or September without acorns on the trees. Anyway, that Winter we had only 12.4 inches of snow with the greatest snow depth of three inches.
Then August 2009 came and the tree produced more acorns then I had even seen. I also noticed the squirrels were burying acorns at an astonishing rate. Well, that winter, we had 34.5 inches of snow with the greatest snow depth of 9 inches for several days in January. If oak trees only produce nuts every other year then why did the trees produce an abundant nut crop again in 2010. Well guess what?! There were a lot of acorns and a lot of snow. 36.4 inches of snow during the Winter of 2010-2011. The greatest snow depth that Winter was 9 inches of snow following the February 2011 blizzard.
Last year, there was a moderate amount of acorns, but the squirrels didn’t bother to bury any for a snowy day. We ended up with a total of about ten inches of snow in Kansas City for the Winter and part of the Spring. Here is the forecast I posted last Autumn. The squirrels missed when it came to five-inch snowfalls but they hit the nail on the head when it came to total snowfall.
Wildlife biologists will tell you a healthy acorn crop is essential to keep animals such as squirrels healthy through Winter. That makes sense, we tend to eat more in the Winter because we burn more calories to keep our bodies warm, so why not squirrels? This year there are a lot of acorns on the trees and on the ground. I took this picture recently of an oak tree in the Burr Oak Woods Nature Area in Blue Springs.
So a lot of acorn on the trees and a lot on the ground. But the squirrels aren’t burying the nuts. What’s the clue here? Maybe they are bulking up, eating more acorns now because colder weather is coming sooner and with more sting. Another clue, if the squirrels aren’t burying the nuts maybe it means they know they will be able to find food easily. That would suggest another below average snowfall year. It would also suggest more cold rains will be possible allowing squirrels to gather dinner and take it back to their nests before the chilly wet weather arrives. So without any further delay, here is the 2018-2019 Acorn Forecast.
Let me know what you think. Do you believe animals can predict the weather? Or are Persimmon seeds to your liking. Spoons are showing up in Persimmon seeds this Autumn. Who will be right? We will just have to wait and see.