Squirrels Living Hard in Lean Times


If you’ve been traveling a West Virginia highway in recent months, you may have noticed an increased number of road kill squirrels along the highway.   Interstate highways in the state are dotted with small fur piles, emblematic of the perfect storm being experienced by wildlife in the state this year.

"I’ve heard myself for the last few days, the number of squirrels they’re seeing on the highways," said DNR Biologist Randy Tucker.

The DNR mast survey reveals the food sources for wildlife in 2009 is a near total failure.    Abundance of mast is at the lowest level, for all species, in the 40-years the DNR has been keeping records.    Among the casualties, hickory nuts which are the staple of the grey and fox squirrel diet.  During a normal year, squirrels wouldn’t have to range far to find plenty of nuts to forage.   This fall however, they have to hunt before they gather. 

"They’re looking for food sources and getting hit on the highways," said Tucker.

Further complicating matters for the squirrels is their numbers.   Last year was one of the highest levels of hickory nut production in many years and followed another solid year in 2007.   A good mast year enables squirrels to produce an extra litter.   Therefore, those yearling squirrels are plentiful at a time when their food source isn’t.

Under the same theory, the squirrel numbers for 2010 don’t look promising.

"Only time will tell," said Tucker.


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