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Mast for Wildlife

Mast for Wildlife

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Published by: Connecticut Wildlife Publication Library on May 27, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/27/2014

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CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
q
WILDLIFE DIVISION
W
ILDLIFE IN
C
ONNECTICUT
WILDLIFE HABITAT SERIES
General Information
Mast is the dry fruit from woody plants. Examplesinclude samara from maple, elm and ash; variouspine seeds; and nuts from oak, hickory, beech,witch hazel and black walnut. Mast is the primaryfall and winter food for most forest wildlife species.In some areas, acorns may comprise more than 50percent of the fall diets of white-tailed deer and wildturkey.A combination of mast-producing trees and shrubsis more favorable in the event that one type fails toproduce for one or more years. In Connecticut,oaks are the most valuable mast producer. Whiteoaks produce a very palatable, sweet mast everyyear and red oaks produce a bitter mast crop everyother year. White oak acorns, because of theirpalatability, generally do not last through thewinter, while red oak acorns remain available,providing a food supply during critical periods ofscarce food.In a hardwood forest, a minimum of 15 oak trees,14 inches diameter at breast height (dbh) or larger,will provide the necessary food source for mastdependent wildlife species such as deer, turkeyand squirrels.Hickory trees also produce nuts which are eaten bysquirrels, turkeys and other wildlife. Beechnut,black walnut, butternut and hazelnut are used bywildlife too, but are either not reliable, consistentfood producers or they are scattered and limited inquantity.
Management for Mast
Pole stands, with their tight crown canopies andsparse understories, are the least productive mastproducers. These stands can be managed bygroup selection in order to open up the crown
Mast for Wildlife
canopy and increase potential acorn production.This benefits wildlife by creating understory growthand encouraging the regeneration of oaks, maples,birches, hickories, cherries and other species.Ideally, 48 percent of forest land should be insawtimber size (12 inches dbh or greater) tomaximize mast production. At suitable sites, masttrees with a dbh of 20 inches or more should beencouraged.
Glossary
Canopy 
the more or less continuous cover of branches and foliage formed collectively by the crowns of adjacent trees and other woody growth.
Diameter at breast height (dbh) 
the standard diameter measurement for standing trees, including bark, taken at four and one-half feet above ground.
Group selection 
an uneven-aged silvicultural system; trees are removed in small groups, here and there, from a large area each year; regeneration is mainly natural and the stand is ideally composed of many ages.

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