High-country berry crops OK, DOW says

Division of Wildlife officer Kevin Wright examines a bear trap set last fall in Aspen. Bear conflicts arise when high-country food sources are scarce and bears start breaking into garbage cans and sometime homes seeking food.

Grape growers in the Grand Valley might be worried about a lost crop after several hard freezes last winter, but early signs indicate most high-country berry crops are doing OK.

It’s still too early to predict the final berry crop, since most of the higher elevation plants have yet to bloom, but every indication is things are about normal, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

“I heard back from a few of our field officers and while it appears the forage is a little behind schedule, we’re OK at this time,” said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.

The high country wasn’t affected by the sub-zero temperatures last December that killed thousands of grape vines in the Grand Valley.

Those conditions, where extremely cold air settled along the river and in some low areas close to the river, aren’t usually found in the mountains, where the slopes allow the cold air to drain downhill to places such as the low areas along the Colorado River, for instance.

“The damaging freeze here in the valley wasn’t problematic up in the high country as the plants at elevation hadn’t yet bloomed out,” Hampton said. “From Steamboat to Aspen, things seem to be going pretty well with natural forage crops.”

High and mid-elevation berry and acorn crops not only supply many types of wildlife with needed late-summer nutrition but also get bears ready for hibernation and help diminish human/bear conflicts.

A lack of natural forage generally leads to more conflicts, Hampton said.

Without a natural source of calories, bears drop into lower valleys looking for food as they try to build their reserves prior to hibernation.

“We could still see some frost issues up high, it’s Colorado, you know, but so far, so good,” Hampton said.

Bears leaving the high country in search of food get into trouble when they rummage through garbage cans, steal pet food and nibble on barbecue grills.

Officials in Glenwood Springs already have reported incidents with bears breaking into trash cans.

“They are out and about,” Police Chief Terry Wilson said recently. “And they are doing what bears do. They are seeking food.”

Hampton said the agency has been busy this spring trapping and relocating bears from several areas in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Last year, the DOW killed 20 troublesome bears in the Aspen area and relocated many others.

Although Pitkin County has ordinances requiring bear-proof trash cans, officials blamed most of the problems on discarded food left in trash cans that aren’t bear-proof.


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