How to Harvest an Abundant Acorn Crop

San Antonio Express News
GARDENING, Etc.
Sunday, October 30, 2005

By Dr. Jerry Parsons

squirrelPeople go “nuts” in this area every other year when we have an abundant acorn crop. Questions pour into PLANTanswers.com wanting to neuter their nut trees:

QUESTION from Laurie who lives 60 miles Southeast of Dallas: “What I would like to know is how I can stop black walnuts and acorns from producing. I live in a very heavy populated tree area and the nuts that fall on my home and on my decking are way too much. Is there anything I can do to stop the trees from bearing nuts? I have tried to search your site for the answer to this question, and the only thing I have come up with is how to make trees produce.”

QuercusmagANSWER from PLANTanswers.com : Laurie, Chainsaw!! Man has not devised a way to prevent nut trees from producing seed or nuts. Most of the time we are trying to manipulate the trees into producing more nuts.

COMMENT BACK from Laurie: “I guess I will have to contact Neil Sperry!”

You see, Neil Sperry is more diplomatic that I am. I propose the simple idea is to let the squirrels eat the acorns then we eat the squirrels. Similar to cattle eating grass then we eat the beef. For those who think squirrels resemble rats and shouldn’t be eaten–forget such a ridiculous idea! Squirrels have furry tails; rats do not. Have you ever heard of rat stew? No! Yet everyone has heard of squirrel stew. In fact, there wouldn’t be a Texas if it weren’t for squirrel stew. Don’t condemn the idea of stewing your squirrel problems away. That’s right! Davy Crockett and his Tennessee sharpshooters wouldn’t have reached puberty if it were not for squirrel stew. Besides, what do you think they ate on the long trip from Tennessee to the Alamo? Enchiladas? Nope! You guessed it–squirrel stew. Now aren’t you ashamed of comparing squirrel to rat? Besides, squirrel meat is lean and an excellent choice for diet-conscience people. Squirrel meat tastes like what the squirrel has been eating the most of so if your pecan or acorn crop has been under attack, recycle the flavor in preserved squirrel meat.

squirrel eating acron in panFor those of you who don’t want to eat the acorn “recyclers”, the following advice offers a kinder, gentler answer. Squirrels and fruit-nut crops don’t mix! Squirrels are cute little varmints that have become lazy in the yard. The furry devils eat all of the yard-fruit…apples, pears and pecans – rather than the “wild nuts and berries” squirrels are supposed to eat. Squirrels don’t want to search for their food in the wilds anymore. Why should they? We’ve grown it for them in convenient, easy-to-eat form. You can say the squirrels of the ’90’s are NOT what their parents were. These ’90’s squirrels want fast food, conveniently packaged.

Squirrels typically feed on tree fruits and nuts. Acorns and pecans are favorite foods, but they have added apples, pears, peaches and tomatoes to their diet as well. These critters have probably been reading some health magazine and figure to lower their cholesterol with an improved diet. That’s all we need, a longer living, healthier squirrel! Squirrels do have an overeating problem and would probably be terribly obese if a program of strenuous exercise coupled with a climbing regimen was not practiced daily. Squirrels can be responsible for phenomenal pecan losses (each squirrel can eat and hide more than 50 pounds of nuts per year). During population peaks when food is scarce, squirrels may even chew bark from a variety of trees.

What can be done about squirrels? Squirrel damage can be prevented by eliminating the presence of the squirrels. Easy? Not really! A variety of traps will catch squirrels. A good bait consists of slices of orange and apple, pecans removed from the shell or peanut butter. Crackers to go with the peanut butter is optional. Baiting can be used as a distraction rather than to catch the varmints. Some folks decide if you can’t beat them, you may as well join them! People report that squirrel damage to desirable crops can be eliminated if the critters are fed. Putting out a bucket of dried dog food near the crop may solve the problem. This makes squirrels so fat they can’t climb well or run as fast. Obesity of squirrels is the number one cause of their demise — fat squirrels plus fast, hungry dogs and cats usually equals squirrel population control.

The most commonly used trap is called Havahart. These traps catch the squirrel unharmed so the cute little critter can be released into the wild or in a person’s yard against whom you have a vendetta. Using the trap also insures that you avoid having your fingers eaten off by a trapped, savage squirrel. The surest and most fulfilling, or should I say filling, method is stewing. Squirrel stew can’t be beaten! Havahart traps can also be used for this elimination procedure since it reduces meat bruising and clotting spots from bullet damage. The good news in many areas of Texas is there is no legal bag limit.
More information can be found about acorns and acorn-eaters at:
http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/june02/june4.htm and
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/recipes/squirrel.html Enjoy!

Dr. Jerry Parsons is a Professor for Texas A&M University and a Texas Cooperative Extension Horticulturist for over 30 years in South Central Texas. For more information on this or other horticulture topics, go to www.plantanswers.com and our County Extension website at https://bexar-tx.tamu.edu.

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