Recent weather berry dangerous | AspenTimes.com

Recent weather berry dangerous

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Wildlife officials are worried that this week’s frost will affect the autumn crop of wild berries, leaving bears starved and seeking human food.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

After an unexpected frost in spring 2004 killed major berry crops, ravenous bears trying to fill up for winter pillaged Aspen’s trash bins and terrorized neighborhoods. Though wildlife officials won’t know about the effects of the frost for a few weeks and say it is a guessing game at best, they are concerned about a repeat of hungry bears descending on the town.

“We’re probably a couple of weeks out before we see how extensive the frost damage is,” said Randy Hampton, a Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman. But Hampton said his outfit is “cautious and concerned.”

Even if the recent frost put a bite on local berry bushes, Hamp­ton said, it won’t affect bears feeding in the summer. At this time of year, bruins are happily filling up on acorns or grubs and bugs they find after overturning logs and roots. And in summer months, bears’ food intake needs are much lower, Hampton said.

But starting in the end of August or early September, bears start bulking up for winter and go into hyperphagia, when they for­age 20 hours per day and eat as much as 20,000 calories every 24 hours.

“It’s all a guessing game,” Hampton said, but added that his staff will know more about the impacts of the frost in coming weeks and can predict the effects on the fall crop.

Hampton stressed the ” critical cooperation” of residents, who need to be vigilant in securing trash, removing bird feeders, monitoring pet food and keeping grills and patio areas clear of scraps and sauces.

“We want to continue to remind people that these are the kinds of things that lead to problems with bears,” Hampton said.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.


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