Collecting Nuts for Wildlife

Want to help us feed our wild patients this year? Many of the patients at the Wildlife Center, including fawns, squirrels, and bears, depend on acorns and other “hard mast” as an important fall and winter food.

This year, the Wildlife Center will be caring for a rambunctious bunch of five growing bear cubs throughout the winter – so we will be going through a lot of nuts!

We’re looking for cleaned acorns, chestnuts, and hickory nuts. Local Virginia nuts only please, in order to minimize disease transmission and keep nuts properly stored.  Please help us by removing twigs, leaves, and other debris and placing the nuts in brown paper bags. Deliver these nuts to the Center quickly after collection to ensure they stay in good condition and can be used.

Nuts quickly deteriorate, mold, and rot if collected and left in buckets/bags where they get wet or hot. For best quality, and to help us store and feed nuts to our patients all winter long, please clean and prepare nuts using these directions.

If you are delivering a large number of nuts, it would be helpful to us if you could freeze some of them using the directions above.

Want to help feed the bears, but don’t have access to nuts?  You can make a donation to the Wildlife Center and specify “Go Nuts!” as the specific purpose of your gift.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can I contribute horse chestnuts?

A: The Center is looking for donations of chestnuts to feed to the cubs.  However, the Center cannot use horse chestnuts, as these are toxic.

Not sure what you’ve got?  Both horse chestnuts and edible chestnuts produce a brown nut.  Edible chestnuts always have a tassel or point on the nut; the toxic horse chestnut is rounded and smooth with no point or tassel.

Edible Chestnuts
Toxic Horse Chestnut


Q: Can I contribute buckeyes?

A: Thanks, but no. Buckeyes, too, are toxic to some of our wildlife.

Q: What about Black Walnuts?

A: We can only use cleaned and husked walnuts. If you are willing to clean and husk, we will accept these nuts! Otherwise, unhusked walnuts are not consumed by patients and they go to waste at the Center.

Q: Can I mail nuts to you?

A: Because we’d like fresh local nuts, or prepared and frozen local nuts, please plan on dropping off your nut donation at the Center. If you’re too far to drop off, please consider making a donation directly to the website instead of spending money on postage! This will ensure we can purchase the specific supplies we need. See the information above about donating nuts.

Please drop off donated nuts at the front door of the Center, any day of the week from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Ideally, please plan on packing nut donations in brown paper bags, or in containers that can be left at the Center. Questions? Email us at

Thanks for your help!