Audubon Society: With bears asleep, break out the bird seed | AspenTimes.com
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Audubon Society: With bears asleep, break out the bird seed

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Beware of the bears, but don’t forget about your feathered friends.

That’s the message from the Roaring Fork Valley Audubon Society, the local branch of the conservation organization that tracks the nation’s wildlife populations. Members of the society’s local satellite fear that a concern for bruin welfare has resulted in the loss of winter feeding opportunities for birds ? a trend that may affect the number of birds able to survive the valley’s harsh winter.

The society stated in a press release this week that valley residents, when bear-proofing their homes and property, should take note of a bear’s feeding schedule.

“Particularly in the upper valley, there is a real concern about attracting bears during late summer and fall, when hungry bruins regard bird feeders as handy snack bars,” the release reads. “As a result, some persons forget to resume feeding in late fall, or stop feeding birds altogether.”

This problem isn’t unique to Aspen, society members note.

“I know people even in Glenwood Springs who don’t feed the birds because of the bears,” said society member Doris Shettel.

The society’s bird-feeder concerns were aggravated last week as the local group gathered for its annual Christmas bird count. The counts, organized by the National Audubon Society, are used to monitor bird populations and other wildlife trends in certain areas.

These bird counts take place within the same 15-mile circles of land each year ? locally, the circles are located near the junction of Highway 82 and Cattle Creek Road, and just outside of Carbondale.

The information gathered during the counts will be forwarded to the National Audubon Society, which can track local and national trends for not only wildlife but weather patterns and the health of individual ecosystems.

Shettel said she and society president Linda Vidal have noticed a decline in the local bird population after their latest count.

“The number of species and individuals has been markedly down,” Shettel said. Figures comparing the count to other years were unavailable.

Shettel and Vidal believe a decline in local bird feeders is a major culprit.

However, Carbondale resident Dave Clark, former president of the local Audubon Society, said a recent shift in local bird populations could be the result of the drought, or other evolving weather trends.

The blame could also be placed on the loss of natural areas to housing developments, Clark said.

Admittedly, those who participated in the recent Christmas bird count could always rely on bird feeders when searching for a particular animal.

“Probably the highest number you’ll find are around feeders,” Clark said.

The society is urging bird-feeder owners to use the feeders.

Residents should remember that, as the snow melts and the weather warms in early spring, birds will be able to find food on their own more easily ? and leftover bird feeders could attract famished bears as they awake from hibernation.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]


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