All over the country, oak trees have shed their leaves, but there areÂ very fewÂ acorns to be found underfoot, as is usual for this time of year. InÂ parts of northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states, scientists have found no acorns whatsoever.
And the seeminglyÂ low acorn output has some people worried.
Kate McNamee, who runs a Washington-area, volunteer tree-planting project called “Growing Native,” says:
“Last year we collected 25,000 pounds of seeds, most from a bumper crop of acorns,” said McNamee. “This year we only collected 10,000 pounds, and 90 percent of that was walnuts.”
Some scientists point to various natural phenomena to explain the lack of acorns foundÂ this year. But others point to the number of happy and enormously fat squirrelsÂ waddling around as the cause.
According to the AMA, instances of obesity in squirrels has risen sharply in the last month, causing some to speculate that squirrels are really ramping up on acorn collection and consumption.
Unfortunately, squirrels are remaining tight-lipped about their involvement. When asked if he knew anything about the acorn shortage, one obese squirrel simply put a finger to his lips andÂ winked. He thenÂ belched, and rolled over on his side and fell asleep.
Meanwhile, to combat the rise in overweight squirrels, doctorsÂ are urging habitrails and hamster exercise wheels all over the country to offer reduced rates to thoseÂ squirrelsÂ that can barely climb their own trees anymore.Â And area church congregationsÂ are praying for a very long winter, which would allow the furry little guys time to burn off all the extra pounds.
In another odd turn of events, several squirrels in Central Park West were seen constructing elaborate security systems around their upscale squirrel holes, while many squirrels inÂ West Virginia were seen sitting in lawn chairs in front of their double-wide squirrel holes with shotguns in their laps, leading many to speculate that the squirrels had a little something extra to protect.
When interviewed, one Miami squirrel said cryptically, “First you get dee nuts. Den you get dee power. Den you get dee women.”
He then disappeared into his squirrel hole.Â
Around the same time, groups of Skepchick readers became giddy thinking aboutÂ all the jokes they were going to make in the Comments about “squirrel holes”.
It’s still unknown if any of the unusual squirrel behavior has anything to do with the acorn shortage. Some people speculate that squirrels are only part of the problem. They say the recent chestnut shipments seized by pirates in the Straits of Somalia has lead chestnut roasters to improviseÂ and useÂ other available nuts, thereby helping to deplete the acorn reserve.
Skepchick was unable to get a single chestnut roaster to comment on the allegations, so this charge has yet to be confirmed. But it’s probably a good idea to be cautious of your nuts this holiday season. It just makes good nut sense.
In the meantime, expertsÂ do indeed haveÂ theories to explain the acorn problem. Virginia extension agent Adam Downing says acorn production runs in cycles. And apparently last year was a bumper acorn crop.Â He saysÂ a lean year isÂ not unusualÂ following a banner year.
“It fits with the physiology of seed reproduction. The trees are exhausted, energy wise, from last year,” he said.
And as we all know, tired trees are no fun at all. All they do is stand there. They don’t participate, and even a loyalÂ arborphile is forced to seek companionship elsewhere.Â And often, it’s the littleÂ seedlings that end up suffering. It’s sad, but it happens.
But theÂ serious partÂ of this nuttiness is,Â scientists say squirrels could actually suffer from an acorn shortage, along with the oak treeÂ population in the long run.
The good news is,Â there is no need to panic just yet. TheÂ shortage has not risen toÂ crisis level.Â Scientists know, however, thatÂ it is important to watch the situation closely. If the shortage continues for several years, the issue will have to be addressed more fully.