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Why Are There So Many Acorns This Year?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Several WCCO viewers, including Leah from Coon Rapids and Robert from Oak Grove, wrote to us wanting to know: why are there so many nuts?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says its foresters are reporting more acorns as we wind down the summer. But, foresters say there's no need to worry – it's all normal.

According to Mike Reinikainen, a forester with the DNR, the three biggest oak species in Minnesota are masting this year. That's similar to having a bumper crop.

Oak trees have boom and bust years when it comes to acorns. Masting can happen every two, or five or seven years — it all depends.

Experts don't know exactly why trees mast in one particular year over another, but the University of Minnesota Extension writes in its blog on acorns that oaks are responding to favorable conditions this spring and summer.

Masting is part of a larger process in nature, says Reinikainen. In a non-masting year, oaks produce just enough acorns for the squirrels and chipmunks and deer to eat. It keeps the animal population in check, but it doesn't allow for any acorns to grow into baby trees.

But every few years, oaks drop a whole bunch of nuts -- way more than the critters could handle. That way, the animals will leave some leftovers to survive and eventually germinate into trees.

And, for anyone who wants the answer to a Good Question from Leah from Coon Rapids: Does a heavy acorn year mean it brutal winter ahead?

No, say foresters from the DNR and University of Minnesota Extension. Acorns can't predict the future, but they can keep more squirrels full, happy and healthy to make it through the winter.

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