Oak trees are perhaps one of the most beneficial tree species to have on your property when it comes to attracting wildlife. Along with creating great habitat, oak trees provide top notch food for a variety of animal species. Many game species benefit from the high-protein and high fat content of acorns, and they are often a preferred food during the fall months. Many species of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles rely on oak trees during some point in their life cycle, including white-tailed deer, black bears, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, squirrels, and other wildlife. Acorns are high in carbohydrates, and help animals gain fat for the winter.
Oaks can be categorized one of two ways; as a white oak or a red oak. They are generally simple to tell apart; white oaks have rounded margins (edges) on their leaves, and red oaks have pointed leaf margins. Animals tend to prefer acorns from white oaks, because they are larger and sweeter, especially whitetail deer. In fact, it is often said that acorns from White oaks are “Deer Candy” because they are intensely attracted to them. Red oak acorns have more tannins (tannic acid), which make them taste more bitter then the white oaks. Humans can eat acorns as well, but if you gather them yourself be sure to boil them in several changes of water to reduce the bitter tannins, which are also slightly toxic to us (when eaten in large amounts).
There are over 600 species of oak (Quercus spp.) worldwide, and about 60 in the United States. Most are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves every fall and grow new ones in the spring. Oak trees, and trees in general, can benefit your home or cabin by reducing cooling costs through the shade that they produce. They also help control storm water runoff, reduce air pollution, and sequester carbon from the air (these qualities are also benefits of trees in general). Notably long-lived species, oaks may live for 500 years or more. Common lifespans of oaks tend to range from 100 – 250 years, depending on the species. Planting and caring for oak trees on your property is a keen investment in the future. If you have any questions about oak trees contact me or a local forester or tree nursery.
Although they are very beneficial there is one large problem with oak tress. They can often take a lifetime to grow into a mature tree that produces. The problem with this is that it can prevent people from planting them. Also, because the wood of the tree is so valuable, stands of oaks are often logged off and sold. Because of that reason, it can often be hard to find large stands of oaks on public land. If you find an oak stand on public property, you may have found a gold mind for whitetail hunting, especially if you are a bow hunter.
Overall, oaks are extremely beneficial to a habitat and can be a much needed food source for many wildlife species.