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Bob Humphrey is the Biology & Deer Behavior field editor for Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine and holds similar titles with other major hunting publications. He currently lives in Maine with his wife and two children. For more information about Bob, visit his website at www.bobhumphrey.com.

Click here to email your questions to "Ask the Biologist."

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Better Than Oaks?
If you still haven’t heard about the return of the American chestnut, you’re not the only one.

Better Than Oaks?

QUESTION: I recently read an article on Dunstan chestnut trees, and how deer really love them. It explains how deer prefer them over white oak acorns. Is there any truth to this? How would the swamp chestnut oak compare to the Dunstan chestnut for deer? — Curtis L.

ANSWER: For those unfamiliar, the American chestnut was pretty much wiped out by disease back in the 1940s. The tree you’re referring to is a cultivar originally developed by Robert Dunstan, a plant breeder. As the story goes, a friend of Dunstan’s found a single living American chestnut in Ohio and sent him some cuttings. Dunstan grew them to flowering and crossed them with Chinese chestnuts, creating a strain with high disease resistance and good nut and tree quality. He then cross bred them back with the pure American chestnut to develop a blight-resistant and nearly pure American Chestnut.

Dunstan chestnut trees have survived for over 30 years from Maine to central florida and throughout the Midwest with no blight infection whatsoever. They’re sold through Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Florida and Realtree Nursery at www.realtreenursery.com.

As for their attractiveness to deer, I haven’t seen results from any empirical scientific experiments but have seen some pretty convincing anecdotal evidence. And it’s not surprising. American chestnuts were once among the most common hardwood trees in eastern North America, making up an estimated 25 percent of the eastern hardwood forest.

Furthermore, chestnuts are nutritionally superior to acorns, containing approximately 40 percent carbohydrates, compared to about 10 percent for white oak acorns; 10 percent protein compared to only 4 percent for white oak acorns; and 2 percent fat, compared to 10 percent in acorns. And deer have an innate ability to determine the most nutritious foods.

They also make a better choice for mast orchards as they grow faster and bigger, sometimes bearing in two to five years, where a white oak might not bear for 20 years. Chestnuts can grow 60-80 feet tall, and they lack the cyclical nature of oaks because they flower later in spring – after late frosts that could cause widespread acorn failures and starvation years for wildlife.

Click Here To Email Your Questions to "Ask The Biologist."

 

 

 

 

 

Trail Camera MFOs
Bob, one of my co-workers captured these baffling and ghostly-looking photos on his Wildgame Innovations trail camera this summer.
 
Deer at the Bird Feeder
I live in central Florida and have deer constantly showing up at my bird feeder to eat, most noticeably at night in the month of June. Is bird seed safe for them to eat?
 
Deer in the Headlights
We often drive the back roads looking for deer at night. We've seen plenty in our headlights and even more when shining the fields. I've always wondered, why do their eyes shine in headlights, but ...
 
Sexual Maturity in Bucks
At what age do bucks reach sexual maturity? And can a fawn go into the rut?
 
Bob-tailed Deer
Bob, I've noticed over the past couple of years that a few of the bucks roaming my property in Eastern Pennsylvania have short, stubby tails.
 
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