Seen regularly this time of year along sections of the road to town are piles of bear scat filled with chokecherry pits.
One reason we notice the piles of scat is that we ’ve been making more trips to town then usual. Our attention has turn from haying and irrigating to some other projects – like getting gravel on the road. The smallest “gravel” that we can find on the West Boulder is about the size of your head, so we must go to town to buy crushed gravel to spread on the road. So far we have seven loads, and it will take many more to fortify the dirt that we hauled in to build the road back up to grade after our spring deluge: http://mellinniumcowboy.blogspot.com/2011/05/deluge.html
Chokecherries are a native fruit about the size of a pea that hang in clusters from bushes that are common along the roadsides. I assume they get their name because they look like small cherries, and they are quite bitter. Combined with sufficient amounts of sugar, however, their flavor is excellent and the fruit is often used in jelly, syrup, and wine. In fact, we picked about 5 gallons of them last week when they were at their peak, after a hard frost.
Competition for chokecherries is intense, with birds, bears, and humans all eager for them. Black bears are especially obvious in their consumption, and they are often seen in the middle of chokecherry bushes clawing the bunches of berries into their mouths.
As I said, the berries themselves are pea-sized, and their pits are about the size of a corn – not much fruit around the seed! Bears scoop them in whole and let their digestive system sort it out, so their piles of scat are filled with pits.
Native Americans used them, sometimes pounding them together with jerky to make “pemmican”. Chokecherry syrup will turn the worst batch of pancakes into a feast. And the wine warms the soul!
Bears are not at all discrete during their fall forage. They are intent on building up enough fat to carry them through hibernation. Bears will climb into an apple tree or chokecherry bush, breaking branches without compunction, and pull everything they can reach straight into their mouths.
But we have our share bubbling in a crock in the basement – purely for medicinal purposes you understand.