It’s a good year to be a squirrel.
Maybe you’ve been surprised by the loud plunk of an acorn hitting your car or waded through clusters of them on the sidewalk. If you think you’ve noticed more acorns piling up than normal this year, you’re not alone.
“This does seem to be a high production year,” said Jonathan Lehrer, associate professor and chair of the urban horticulture and design department at Farmingdale State College. “It does seem the oak trees are loaded, and you’re in danger of tripping because there’s so many.”
Oak trees shed acorns in cycles, according to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. That means some years, trees will deposit acorns in small numbers and other years, it feels like an acorn storm.
Those high-yield years, called “mast years,” seem to occur every two to five years in regional waves, Lehrer said. They’ve also been observed in beech and hickory trees, among others.
Further research would be needed to determine if 2016 is truly a mast year for oak trees, Lehrer said.
“It’s not fully understood why this cycles in that way,” he said.
Some theories suggest weather conditions can influence how many acorns are produced in a particular year. The cycles of acorn production do help control populations for acorn-eating animals like squirrels and mice, which some experts say could give trees the best chance at reproducing.
“We have had such a terrible drought so I didn’t think many acorns would form this year,” MaryLaura Lamont, chair of the Long Island Botanical Society’s education committee and a park ranger, wrote in an email.
“It is an excellent year which should give the birds and mammals that survive on acorns in the wintertime here a decent food supply,” she said.
But for some human Long Island residents, the load of acorns is getting to be too much.
“I don’t even need to go to a gym anymore. I must have scooped out of my pool, I don’t know how many thousands of acorns,” Huntington resident Rick Maake, 63, said. “My arms are like rocks now.”
Maake said in his 30 years living in his home, he’s never seen as many acorns as this year.
He’s since closed up his pool, but still commiserates with his neighbors about acorn-filled driveways and suffers the occasional knock on the head.
On Twitter, other Long Islanders shared similar stories.
“Our house is under fire. From acorns. Mass quantities. And they hurt when you get hit with them. Who knew?” user @alisondkrumm tweeted from Huntington on Wednesday.
User @Steven_Urso said a falling acorn hit his cellphone and cracked its screen protector.
Adelphi University in Garden City shared a warning to students, staff and campus visitors on Friday.
“We’ve had complaints of falling acorns . . . and we think we found the culprit! Be on the lookout!” the school tweeted, with a photo of a squirrel.
Even in the safety of their cars, some local residents can’t escape.
“You hear them hit your car when you’re driving,” Maake said. “It never happened in the past, where you’re on the road and still getting pummeled by acorns.”