It's worrisome enough to make even the most mellow squirrel-loving human turn a deep shade of eastern grey: This is supposedly a "bust" year for acorns, following the acorn "boom" of 2010.
That's not good. Why should humans be indulging their dollars and senses in the untethered consumerism of the holidays - reveling first in the retail orgy of Black Friday - when squirrels can barely shop for the basics to fill their winter pantry? If the scientists are correct, this will be a winter of wanting.
It doesn't seem fair.
Yet a recent New York Times article claims the dearth of these seminal trees-to-be is most evident in places such as Central Park, and will have a ripple effect affecting both predator and prey. Humans are not left out of this ill-fated equation.
As squirrels go, so goes the nation.
Blame the trees which, apparently, are not doing their part. Acorn production, according to one forest ecologist, is well below the average 25 to 30 pounds a year per tree, for oaks alone.
Is this a workplace stoppage? Are the trees going on strike? Or perhaps, like so many American production facilities, perhaps even trees have begun to outsource their output to overseas facilities where tree labor is cheaper (and not even unionized)? Perhaps even underage trees are being forced to produce acorns before they are even mature enough to handle it?
It's easy to see, from the squirrels' point of view, where this can all lead back home in the U.S.: No nut-cache to be had means a future rife with hunger and with few available jobs because there is nothing to bury. Fewer acorns to sprout and grow means, ultimately, fewer trees to house squirrels of future generations.
Hunger, unemployment and homelessness - sound familiar?
The Federal Acorn Reserve Bank doesn't seem to want to kick in its share - adjusting the interest rate on acorns or maybe giving squirrels easier access to acorn credit - but then, would squirrels even accept government handouts at this point? I think not.
There has to be a solution.
This would ordinarily be a tough nut to crack but, unfortunately, there are none of them to be found.