How do you like them apples?
September 26, 2007
ASPEN ” Colorado Division of Wildlife officials are getting crabby about food sources for bears in Aspen.
Wildlife officers said crab apple trees downtown attract hungry bears, putting both the animals and pedestrians in danger.
On Sept. 8, Aspen police sectioned off the Hyman Avenue mall after an adult female bruin and two cubs took up residence in the crab apple trees, drawing a crowd of onlookers.
DOW staff captured and relocated the animals to an area outside of Glenwood Springs and, after just a few nuisance calls downvalley, have not had any reports of the animals since.
And though wildlife officers have not had to euthanize any bears in Aspen in nearly three weeks, DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said the number of hungry bears in Aspen is still a concern.
“If we didn’t have those crab apples, there wouldn’t be any reason for those bears to be on the mall,” Hampton said.
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DOW officials asked city staff to pick the fruit in the hope bears would not return to the busy downtown, but city of Aspen officials declined, Hampton said.
“With our staffing levels, to get out and get every crabapple off these trees would be … I’m not going to stay impossible … it would be extremely difficult,” said Chris Forman, Aspen’s city forester.
Stephen Ellsperman, the city’s parks and open space director, estimated there are more than 35 mature crabapple trees in the city’s pedestrian zones, and said it would take far too many hours to pick them clean.
“That would be a pretty tall order,” Ellsperman said.
County staff voluntarily picked fruit from the few trees in front of county buildings along Main Street, according to County Manager Hilary Fletcher, but Ellsperman said clearing the many trees in the pedestrian areas would be a much bigger job.
“My recommendation has been the town ought to remove the crabapple trees,” District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright said, suggesting officials replace them with a non-fruit-producing variety.
“I know the trees are beautiful and I understand why they were planted, but from a wildlife perspective they are an attractant,” Wright said.
Crabapples are the only natural food in Aspen, Wright said, and because the recent pattern has been a “hard food year” for bears about every three years, the downtown crabapples are becoming more and more of a problem.
“How many times do you have to rope off the Hyman Avenue mall?” Wright said. “Something’s going to give, and the bears have lost every time.”