JONESBORO, AR - Farmers and fruitgrowers won't be the only Arkansans feeling the effects of a hard freeze in northern and central Arkansas early this month. Experts say hunters may also find game is more scarce because of a shortage of acorns and berries this year.
Warm temperatures in March allowed plants to flourish, which set the conditions for widespread damage when the temperature plunged on April 8. Governor Beebe has declared emergencies in 48 of Arkansas's 75 counties due to the freeze.
Jan Medeiros, Johnson County Peach Festival treasurer, said this year's festival will be held, but there won't be any peaches. Grape-growing territory in western Arkansas took a severe hit from the cold and much of the wheat crop sustained damage. The south Arkansas tomato crop also sustained damage.
Damage to plant life wasn't restricted to farms and home gardens. Steve Chyrchel, interpretive naturalist at Hobbs State Park, said the freeze killed blossoms on flowering plants and trees that produce food for all sorts of animals that live in the forest. He said the woods are the grocery store for those critters. He said right before the freeze, he noticed that huckleberries were blooming nicely, but the freeze got them all, so the animals won't have those berries to eat.
Chyrchel said acorns are the number one food source for lots of animals, including moles, mice, turkeys, deer and squirrels. But he said there will probably be few acorns this year, and that will create chaos in the animal world.