August 6, 2016

Bumper Berry Crop This Summer

If you've been in the Rockies this summer, you'll have noticed that we are having the best berry crop in years.  The berry everyone follows here is the buffaloberry (Sheperdia canadensis), and it is the single most important food for bears in Banff and Jasper.  Bears are able to consume over 100,000 of these berries per day in the best part of the summer, which by all accounts, is right now.

This year's climate must have favoured the buffaloberries, and if you are alongside rivers or roadsides in the park, the fruit is so abundant that you can see the red among the foliage.  When you get up close, the bushes are just stacked with berries.

I sleuthed around online and found a 2007 PhD thesis about buffaloberries, by University of Saskatchewan student Richard Green.  Here's the skinny on what's in a buffaloberry:
Ripe buffaloberries, August, 2016

  • 75.1% moisture
  • 1.4% protein
  • 0.5% lipid
  • 4% dietary fibre.
  • 6.4% glucose
  • 3.7% fructose
It's those final two ingredients that turn our skinny bears into fat bears. Come September, we expect to see some pretty fat bears!

If you find a patch of buffaloberries, keep your eyes open for bears, and happy trails.