Oak acorns are a seasonally important food resource for deer because they help build body reserves for the fall and winter. Acorn crops are an especially important where habitats have limited abundance of early successional plants or otherwise lack plant community diversity. In some habitats, acorns are the most important determinant of deer health and population levels. However, little is known about deer preference of acorns among oak species. Selection of acorns of certain oak species over others by deer could affect oak forest regeneration and subsequent forest composition. In addition, knowledge about acorn preference by deer would help deer managers when they plan forest and orchard plantings designed to attract and feed deer. Zach Wesner is conducting this research under the direction of Dr. Gino D'Angelo at the Whitehall Deer Research Facility.
The study's primary objectives include:
1) Evaluate deer preferences for acorns of oak species native to coastal islands of the Southeast
2) Evaluate deer preferences for acorns of oak species native to the Southern Appalachians
3) Evaluate differences in nutritional value of preferred and non-preferred acorns