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The 2009 mast crop in West Virginia is the worst in the history.    The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources recently released its annual report on the abundance of wildlife food sources in the state and biologists say this year’s occurrence of those food sources is the lowest it’s been in the 40-years the state has been keeping track.

"Both soft mast and hard mast were pretty much at an all-time low," said Biologist Randy Tucker who authors the report.

Tucker says there are indications that there are some very isolated pockets where you’ll find at least some mast, but they are few and far between for 2009.  

"It’s patchy throughout the state," said Tucker.  "It seems like the higher elevations did a little better than the lower elevations in terms of acorn production, or mast production."

White oak acorns are the stable of the whitetail deer diet in West Virginia.    It promises to be a long, hard winter for all species of wildlife that depend on those acorns and other nuts to get them through.

"There’s going to be fewer groceries this winter to survive on," Tucker tells MetroNews. "This is an important time of year for a lot of species.   They start building up their fat reserves for the winter.  We’re not sure what the winter’s going to bring, but it’s important for species like deer and bear to build up those fast reserves from the hard mast species that help carry them through the winter."

Acorns were not the only crop failure, beech nuts, walnuts, and hickory nuts were all virtually non existent in most of the state.   All of those species, along with the acorns, were 40-percent below the 39-year average.  

Occasionally there will be years when one or two species will be low, but their loss is usually compensated by a stronger crop of another species.   This year, it’s a total failure.   Soft mast is also at a historically low level.   The only species above the 39-year average is dogwood, and it’s not great. 

Tucker says he doesn’t remember it, but apparently an event from back in May is to blame for the problem.

"There was a fairly late freeze in May, so we suspect that contributed to it," said Tucker. 

"Somewhat it will be good news for deer hunters, because deer will be easier to find," said Tucker. "They’re going to have to move to find food and that will make them more accessible to hunters in the field."


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