The Division of Natural Resources (DNR), in conjunction with the Division of Forestry, annually surveys the state to determine relative abundance of soft and hard mast produced by trees and shrubs of importance to wildlife populations. Information on the quantity of wildlife food is provided to our cooperators, hunters, and various media outlets.
Mast surveys are completed at various locations covering all regions of West Virginia. Professionals and volunteers — including wildlife managers, foresters, wildlife biologists, Natural Resources Police Officers, Natural Resources Commissioners, and retired personnel from a multitude of natural resources related disciplines — devote their time and effort to collect data for these surveys. Without the participation of these individuals, completion of the statewide mast survey would not be possible. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to everyone who assists with data collection in the annual survey.
The mast survey is a relative estimation of mast produced by 18 different tree and shrub species that are widespread and locally common throughout the state and are of nutritional value to wildlife. Cooperators are assigned counties and areas familiar to them to collect mast production information, and the same areas are generally surveyed each year to ensure consistency in the survey across years. Mast crop production is subjectively evaluated as abundant, common, or scarce for each species encountered by the observer in the surveyed area. The surveyor also documents species that are not encountered, along with additional mast-producing species of local importance (e.g., Pawpaw, Persimmon, Cucumber-tree, Blueberry, Huckleberry, etc.) that do not appear on the statewide survey form. The mast index is calculated for each species, and in some cases guilds of species (e.g., hard mast producers, all oaks, oak-cherry-hickory, etc.), via the following formula:
Mast Index = [(Abundant Observations/Total Observations) +
((Common Observations X 0.5)/Total Observations)] X 100
The mast index is calculated by species for each ecological region and elevation (high or low, relative to the local terrain of the surveyed county). The current year’s index is compared to the previous year’s index and the running long-term average spanning the life of the survey, which was first conducted in 1971.
The 2021 results and outlook is now available.