While driving or riding down New Hampshire roads you may have noticed the many dead squirrels scattered along the street. Since late summer the number of dead squirrels on NH roadways has been hard to miss. This spike in the squirrel population and the subsequent increase in dead squirrels has even surprised New Hampshire officials including local Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Rob Calvert who told the Union Leader after driving on Interstate 89,
“We had 76 splats of dead squirrels in the road that we could count going both ways,” Calvert said. “It was pretty amazing.”
This influx in the number of squirrels has several causes. Starting back during the winter of 2017. Due to a large number of pine cones and acorns available more young squirrels were able to survive and make it spring. According to forester Jim Frohn, “Acorn crops tend to be highly variable, with a huge amount of acorns some years, and very few in other years. Studies show that during bumper-crop years which occur on average two out of 10 years, there can be more than 250,000 acorns per acre.”
With a large number of acorns more squirrels than usual survived the winter, however, there were not enough acorns or pine cones available in the spring to feed all the squirrels. Due to the sudden lack of food, the squirrels had to venture further out to find food. Since the squirrels had to travel further to find food they began eating foods different from their normal diet including fruit, berries and even trash. With so many squirrels eating from the many fruit trees and orchards across New Hampshire, farmers are having trouble keeping them away. As the squirrels traveled further into urban areas, more wound up crossing roads and intersections only to encounter the disturbing fate we see splattered on the roads. However, in some places, the influx of squirrels has had an even more devastating effect. In Wilmington, Massachusetts squirrels chewed through the power lines leading to a power outage throughout the town. On the bright side, biologists say the number of acorns this year is down from last year, so hopefully the squirrel population, and inversely the number of squirrels on the road should return to normal soon. In the meantime, to avoid hitting these woodland creatures be sure to drive safe this fall!