Aspen: Let there be apples
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado – Downtown crab apple trees will produce fruit after all. The city’s plan to spray the blossoms this spring to prevent the bear-enticing apples from forming was scrapped.
The spraying plan caught flak from some citizens; letters to the editor panned the idea and readers overwhelmingly objected to spraying the trees in an Aspen Times online poll in May, but city forester Chris Forman said the change of plans wasn’t a response to public opinion.
“We have open ears and we always listen – it doesn’t necessarily change our course of action,” he said.
Nonetheless, Forman said use of the spray requires more thought and research.
“We’re not saying it will never be done, but we’re looking at it further,” he said.
In the meantime, the city will again keep a tally of bear calls in town this summer and fall. If there’s a lot of bear trouble, as there was last year, Forman predicted there will be another discussion about the crab apple trees.
The trees, which produce a bumper crop of fruit, are but one attractant for black bears when their natural food sources fail or fall short and they show up in town looking for edibles.
The spraying of 40-some crab apple trees lining the pedestrian malls was to be an experiment. The spray has no insecticidal properties, according to Forman, but is touted as a way to trigger the trees into aborting the production of fruit for the season. The trees have to be sprayed while they’re blossoming in order for it to work.
If the city wants to do anything about the crab apples now, it will have to pick them by hand.
“That’s the only thing that could be done at this point,” Forman said. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but it takes so much time and labor.”
The Colorado Division of Wildlife has pushed for stricter trash rules and called on the city to make sure trash containers meet bear-resistant standards after last year’s multitude of bear incidents. The DOW was forced to kill 20 bears in the Aspen area and relocate plenty of others.
While available human food got the lion’s share of the blame from DOW officers, the crab apples were also identified as a problem.
“The crab apples are also a major, major issue,” DOW district wildlife manager Kevin Wright told Pitkin County commissioners in the spring.
All property owners in Aspen are now required have a wildlife-resistant garbage can, and trash containers can only be left outside between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on pick-up day. The fine for a first violation is $250; it’s $500 for a second offense. The rules took effect June 1.