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Wednesday, 15 October 2014 15:03

Year of the acorn in WNC

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out acornIt looks like 2014 will go into the history books as “The Year of the Acorn,” according to Friends of the Smokies. 

 

Fall mast — meaning nuts such as acorns, black walnuts and beechnuts — is falling so heavily that it’s creating a safety hazard on some hiking trails. Some minor injuries have been reported in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a result of the “walking on marbles” effect of heavy mast. 

The bumper crop of acorns is good news for wildlife such as bear, squirrel, wild turkey and elk. Anecdotal reports indicate most black bears have been staying in the park backcountry this fall rather than wandering far and wide in search of fattening foods.

A good mast year usually means bears will go into their winter dens with plenty of fat reserves and pregnant females will give birth to healthy cubs. High mast yields also reduce bear-human interactions. In low mast years, bears on the hunt for calories before heading into hibernation will push the boundaries of their normal territory and emerge from hibernation earlier and hungrier than normal. 

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