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Acorns are a preferred food for White-tailed Deer in the fall, thus it may seem strange to see an abundance of Red Oak acorns still lying on the ground as the weather starts turning cold. The reason that deer haven’t already consumed them has to do with the amount of tannic acid in acorns. The acorns of different oak species contain different amounts of tannic acid — the more tannic acid, the more bitter the acorn.
Red Oak acorns have relatively large amounts of tannic acid in them, and thus, are not at the top of a deer’s list of preferred acorns. White Oak acorns have very little tannic acid and as a result quickly disappear. In addition, Red Oak acorns remain viable, and edible, far longer on the ground than White Oak acorns. Deer have learned this, and consequently, signs of their pawing through the snow in order to reach Red Oak acorns are common during the winter.
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